No amount of political rhetoric can obscure Pennsylvania's economic momentum over the past 30 months — progress that has added new jobs for working families while creating critical mass for a generation of economic growth.
Consider the numbers:
• Our unemployment rate continues to keep pace with the nation and our surrounding states.
• At 6 million employed, we now have the largest number of Pennsylvanians working since the recession.
• Since the start of 2011, Pennsylvania has ranked fourth in overall employment and 13th out of the 50 states for private-sector job growth.
Since the Corbett administration took office, we have added more than 130,000 private-sector jobs to our economy. And while the rest of the nation was cautioned earlier this month that the nation's falling unemployment rate was clouded by a decline in labor force participation — meaning many had given up looking for work and were no longer counted — that hasn't been the case in Pennsylvania.
Our labor force participation continues to trend positively and well ahead of many states, even while our unemployment rate has dipped. More Pennsylvanians are looking for work and more of them are finding it. In fact, during the Corbett administration, we have recovered more than 50 percent of the jobs lost during the recession and we are pacing the nation in economic recovery.
In short: We're expanding the economy, increasing employment and laying the groundwork for more.
This is happening for a number of reasons, chief among them the combined efforts of both the Department of Community and Economic Development and Labor & Industry.
Economic development professionals on the Governor's Action Team at DCED work directly with businesses that are considering locating in Pennsylvania. In the first half of this year alone, they have received commitments to create 4,392 new jobs and retain 11,554 more positions through expansion and attraction projects.
The results include expansion of several major companies in Pennsylvania, including Volvo, Dollar General, PetsMart, Ocean Spray and Google. These are in addition to the hundreds of smaller companies that are relocating, growing and being built right here in Pennsylvania.
This success has led to Pennsylvania being ranked third in the nation and first in the Northeast for new or expanded corporate facilities by Site Selection Magazine; ninth in the nation for economic growth potential by Business Facilities Magazine; and being awarded a "Silver Shovel" for its success in new job creation and economic growth by Area Development Magazine.
Key to this progress is a diversifying economy, in which one industry doesn't so dominate a region that a downturn can trigger an overall downturn as happened in the steel industry a generation ago.
Manufacturing, energy, health care are all seeing tremendous expansion, with the good-paying jobs that go with them.
Manufacturing is of special note. Once thought an industry of the past, manufacturing in Pennsylvania comprises 15,000 businesses and employs more than half-a-million workers.
Energy has been one of the most riveting stories of our economic boom. Today, it has directly created or helps to sustain 200,000 jobs and has contributed an astonishing $36 billion in economic activity. With the prospect of a $4 billion ethane processing plant in Pennsylvania's southwest — a project spearheaded by Gov. Corbett — we could see 10,000 construction jobs, tens of thousands of related energy jobs, and the arrival of satellite plants similar to the ones that have sprung up around processors in the Gulf Coast.
Health care has led the pack in direct job growth, with an employment gain of 34,800 since Gov. Corbett took office. This industry accounts for 40 percent of all jobs added since January 2011, and with pro-growth policies in place that number is expected to swell to more than 109,000 jobs.
L&I recently launched JobGate way.pa.gov, a robust job-matching site averaging more than 200,000 Pennsylvania job postings that also features PA Career Coach, a career exploration tool that connects job seekers with the training they need.
That's the proud picture of Pennsylvania's economy: growth, jobs and a vibrant economy for a workforce that is growing.
Julia K. Hearthway is secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. C. Alan Walker is secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.