While suffering a net loss of jobs during the national economic crisis, Pennsylvania’s rate of employment change was better than 30 other states in 2008, state Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said today, citing data released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

From the end of December 2007 until the final day of 2008, total non-farm jobs in Pennsylvania declined by 76,200, from about 5.808 million to 5.732 million. The change of minus-1.31 percent was the 20th best among the 50 states. Only eight states gained jobs in 2008, led by Wyoming’s 2.22 growth rate. Of the 42 that lost jobs, Rhode Island showed the largest rate of decline at minus-4.48 percent.

A closer look at monthly job numbers illustrates just how much Pennsylvania has been impacted by the sudden downturn of the economy that began in late summer and fall. Of the 76,000-plus jobs lost during the year, 75,000 of them disappeared since July.

“We have softened the blow to the state’s economy. Ranking 20th in this severe recession is partly a credit to the strategic investments in job creation that we have made,” said Costa, while noting that he was also mindful of the personal toll on the unemployed.

“When you lose as many jobs as we did last year, you have to remember the human story behind the numbers. It is sad for families who are now without a breadwinner, single people who can’t make ends meet, or young people who must delay pursuing their career goals,” added state Sen. Christine Tartaglione, Democratic chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, and also Caucus Administrator.

Costa, the Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee Chairman, cited several key factors that helped Pennsylvania outperform the national average. Investments through the Commonwealth Financing Authority of more than $1 billion have leveraged an additional $3 billion of privately invested capital. The new slot machine gambling industry has provided $800 million in tax relief to date. Pennsylvania has cumulatively cut business taxes by $4 billion since 2003, with the capital Stock & Franchise Tax rate now down to 1.89 mills as of January 1, 2009. Targeted state money has stimulated shared university/business research, tourism, and international trade and investment.

He pointed out that the state has cut taxes to free up capital, yet has continued investing state resources in a way that leads to job creation. Both are important if we want to create a business climate that will produce economic growth and help out of these difficult times.

Pennsylvania’s ranking was up from 2007, when it had the 36th best employment growth rate. During the 1990s, Pennsylvania consistently ranked in the 40s among states in job growth.

All six states on Pennsylvania’s border also lost jobs last year. Two ranked better than Pennsylvania – West Virginia (10th) and Maryland (12th.) The four neighboring states who were worse ranked as follows: New York (22nd,) New Jersey (23rd,) Ohio (25th,) and Delaware (29th.)