Institute looks at impact of COVID-19 pandemic on employment in PA

coronavirus cell and PA map
Credit: Penn State Harrisburg

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Continuing its analysis on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Pennsylvania, the Institute of State and Regional Affairs (ISRA) at Penn State Harrisburg has released a report comparing the economic impact of the pandemic on business sectors in Pennsylvania. The report — which is one tool that may be used to inform decision-making by local officials — found that unemployment claims grew at an alarming rate from the week of March 21 through the week of April 11, totaling nearly 1.7 million cases, and that cases may continue to grow past 2 million.

“As the commonwealth reopens, statewide leaders have many factors to consider. It is important that tools being used to support decision-making related to economic impacts pay attention to the job sectors that were hardest hit,” said Philip Sirinides, director of ISRA.

Using employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's definition of essential businesses paired with data on establishments, employment, and unemployment claims, the new report assesses the economic impact of the pandemic in Pennsylvania. The report found that at least 1.2 million employees worked in industries impacted by business establishment closures.

The construction sector (79%) and the accommodation and food services sector (57%) had the largest percentage of employees filing unemployment compensation claims.

“As regions of the state move through the phases of the reopening plan, highly impacted sectors such as accommodation and food services, retail, trade and healthcare and social assistance may begin to reopen. Employees in these four sectors accounted for nearly one million claims for unemployment during the four-week period studied,” Sirinides said. “All of the findings could help guide Pennsylvania’s plan for reopening with information about which sectors of the state economy have been hit hardest.”

The Institute of State and Regional Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg leverages unbiased data expertise and the resources of Penn State to provide multifaceted data and research support services. The institute is comprised of the Pennsylvania State Data Center, the Center for Survey Research, the Economic Development Course in Pennsylvania, and the ISRA Integrated Technology Center.

For more information about this and other reports related the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the Institute of State and Regional Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg at, or contact the institute at 717-948-6173 or [email protected].