Sunday, March 28, 2010

High and rising

Well, last week's migration factoid got people's attention.   For those who want to obsess on regional migration trends, my last full migration report is online here.  That report does not reflect the data just released in any way.  The data I need to do that won't be out for a few months. 

Funny thing though.   Every year there is this perpetual cycle when these annual census population estimates come out, at least there was.  The data inevitably shows decline and the minor news cycle starts spontaneously as almost everyone wants to jump to a conclusion that it's yet another data point showing that all the young people are leaving.  I am left repeating a somewhat lame mantra that says...  no, for Pittsburgh the population decline is not all from migration and no, not it's not even true that all migration is made up of young people.  We have these old people who sort of like Florida to retire to and all.  I try to argue that when you add it up, it's not even worth a story or that it's not exactly as bad as it seems..  If I'm lucky I can get the discourse to move away from using the young people 'fleeing' verbiage.  As often I fail at even that.

I was actually going to name this post something like a silver stake through Border Guard Bob's heart... but fewer and fewer people will get the reference which is a good thing.  That or a bit too gruesome.  But maybe we can at least move Beyond Border Guard Bob. Yes I may be talking to myself sort of, but Bob continues to manifest himself in a lot of subtle ways in the region's mentality.

This year, the numbers come out and nobody noticed at all.  It was strange in my little world.  When I got around to looking and seeing our factoid of the day that net domestic migration was positive.  I couldn't figure out why it was not being noticed.  So bad news = big news but good news goes into limbo.  There is some post-cupcake Pittsburgh angst interpretation in all of it, but I need to sleep on that. That and a gentle reminder woke folks up in the end... 

But there is a bigger story in all of that.   Really.  I'm serious. 

First wonk speak.  The numbers just out and the factoid of +1,144 net dometic migration (international immigration which is by construct almost entirely positive is added on top of that) reflect changes that took place between the income tax filings filed for the 2008 tax filing season and the 2009 tax filing season.   So roughly people who changed addresses between the early spring of 2008 and had moved by the same period in 2009. So mostly the early part of the recession.   Migration decisions typically happen well before actual migration, so you are really talking about decisions that happened before the recession began. The timing matters to understand the trend.

So now take into account two completely correlated graphs.  One is the trend in how the local unemployment rate differs from the national unemployment rate.  We are now at 40 consecutive months where the Pittsburgh rate has been below the national level.  That is now the longest period you can say that for any period since at least 1970.... and I just don't have a consistent set of data over a longer historical period, but I doubt you could find a similar period since the end of WWII though for that I still need to dig some more.  But the graph of that over just the last 40 years is this:


Couple that with something I pointed out a couple weeks.ago   Historic recession all around, or as the AP now has appropriated the naming rights, the 'Great Recession'. (who named the 'Great Depression' anyway? At the very least it seems not to be the AP)  The unemployment rate, and total unemployment levels for that matter, high and rising here and elsewhere.  Yet the labor force in the Pittsburgh region reached an all time, and I do mean all-time, peak in January.  Whether employed or unemployed, the labor force represents people here in the region. If anything, labor force participation drops during recessions, so if that is true here a rising labor force would require an even greater rise in population. 

Pittsburgh MSA Labor Force, 1970-present

So if nothing else, a fairly easy prediction for the record.... but the positive migration making news this year will be a bigger positive number next year.  I'll save some thoughts on the international immigration numbers released last week for later.

14 Comments:

Blogger C. Briem said...

editorial note: I can tell some folks have commented here, yet they are not showing up. Have no idea what is up, but I have not deleted anything.

Sunday, March 28, 2010 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous RoboticGhost said...

Memes have inertia, and if you don't spend much time reading Null Space et al or thinking about the numbers I suppose the older narrative makes sense. If you never leave your house. But you gotta wonder when the purely anecdotal will pass a threshold here. It may be an accident of where I live and what I pay attention to, but the signs of an increasing presence of folks from away seems pretty obvious to me. Lots of folks from Shaker Heights, Roslyn, Scranton and elsewhere walking dogs and pushing strollers around Greenfield* these days, and the certainly wasn't the case 10 years ago.

Amusing related anecdote: A few months ago my boss, a native Chicagolander who's lived here for 15 years or so, said "Pittsburgh seems to be better looking than it used to be." She meant the people, not the town itself. I mentioned that it was likely that she was seeing a higher percentage of younger people than she used to, which touched off a lunchroom discussion about young people fleeing Pittsburgh that spilled over into an e-mail thread. Null Space was useful!

*There's a migration story going on in Greenfield that I don't have the tools to identify precisely. Lots of Russians, Ukrainians, and young professional types running around Greenfield these days. I think there is a formula that goes something like Oakland + Downtown + Parkway + Squirrel Hill + Waterfront + yards + old people dying or moving = Greenfield. Real Estate figures I've seen (but can't find right now) are a clue. I wish there was a datapoint out there tracking the number of pink bathroom fixtures replaced in Greenfield over the last few years.

Sunday, March 28, 2010 1:17:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

RG, I think your model is overspecified. I'd do:

Squirrel Hill - ($20,000 to $40,000) = Greenfield.

People want the starter house and I've known lots of people who have looked or bought in Greenfield over the past 8 years. The part of Squirrel Hill that abuts Greenfield isn't much different in terms of housing quality, but it is pricier.

I keep watching Greenfield, looking for an indicator of whether or not the upswing I've also been expecting is happening. I've decided the upswing will be real when the Giant Eagle spends more than $7.52 on maintenance in a given year or the Coop puts out a sign board advertising a Pasta Primavera special.

Sunday, March 28, 2010 3:26:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

RG, I think your model is overspecified. I'd do:

Squirrel Hill - ($20,000 to $40,000) = Greenfield.

People want the starter house and I've known lots of people who have looked or bought in Greenfield over the past 8 years. The part of Squirrel Hill that abuts Greenfield isn't much different in terms of housing quality, but it is pricier.

I keep watching Greenfield, looking for an indicator of whether or not the upswing I've also been expecting is happening. I've decided the upswing will be real when the Giant Eagle spends more than $7.52 on maintenance in a given year or the Coop puts out a sign board advertising a Pasta Primavera special.

Sunday, March 28, 2010 3:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Silicon Valley Transplant said...

RG, we moved to Greenfield two years ago and have finally saved enough to get rid of our pink bathroom fixtures (the kitchen remodel had to come first).

Your formula combined with MH's modification is spot on for why we moved here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010 8:09:00 PM  
Blogger joe said...

Of the 1,144 new net neighbors, how many are returning here from the diaspora, how many are totally new residents, and how many of the latter are international? I know there's lots of moving in and moving away (and dying), and it's 1,144 net, but still there are 1,144 new residents here, and there must be a distribution of the flux (probably a more technical term for that right?)

Unrelated (?), but the appearance of Bombay Food Market at Centre & Craig in the last month is a revelation!Have you visited? Fresh produce, amazing place - create something like that in Greenfield and you shall be an international destination in no time! (There may already be such a place for all I know.)

We shopped at Bombay on Saturday before attending the Latin American and Caribbean Festival at the old Schenley Hotel. I thought of the old Gilded Burghers having dinner in that room back in the Other Aughts. What would they have made of some of the most beautiful people in Pittsburgh (I'm biased) gathered together for music, food, commmunity -- for the 30th year in a row in 2010? In Pittsburgh.

Sunday, March 28, 2010 8:23:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

there is, or was, a whole discussion in the literature over how there is no such thing as a 'net migrant'.

But to clarify. 1,144 is the net domestic migration. The data says there are another 2K international immigrants as well over that year. I'll get into some issues with that number next week, but the total net migration into the region is over 3K.

But still the total migration flow is much higher. The net number is a small ratio of the total number of 'new' residents. Some may remember this:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07224/808779-109.stm

As for the compostion. It can be sliced lots of ways. Which ones are true return migrants the preceise term for what popularly is called boomerang migration which I get asked about a lot. I generally am of the opinion that there is not a disproportionate rate of return migration into Pittsburgh. If it appears to be the case I have some theories on why people perceive that as such. But consider that if ex-Pittsburghers were returning at some abnormally high rate... then given the large number of ex Pittsburghers out there you would expect the domestic migration number to be exploding.. not just edging positive. Thus I believe the bulk of new arrivals are like new arrivals most everywhere and coming from lots of places both in their immediate past and in terms of where they came from originally.

Sunday, March 28, 2010 9:36:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

There's nothing conceptually wrong about "net migrants." They just want to stop bad jokes about "gross migrants."

Sunday, March 28, 2010 11:57:00 PM  
Blogger n'at said...

A space between anecdotal and the data driven empirical analyses is the art. Where is art today in Pittsburgh?

I recall a conversation with an artist almost 10 years back with respect to his medium. Every other artist working with metals in PGH would scour the junk yards and ruins of past industry while he would only work with new, un-blemished metals - brushed aluminum, stainless steel. etc. Art has always provided a substantive record of history. So what are we currently seeing around town? Romanticized renderings of the Carrie Furnance, or colorful depictions of where inmigrants dare to tread?

Monday, March 29, 2010 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

are you making a comment of the Cannoy I put there on the right? I'm going to put a Gorson image up there next. Just to be a stick in the effluent-doused mud.

Monday, March 29, 2010 4:37:00 PM  
Blogger n'at said...

not attacking your sensibility, but asserting that their era is gone and perhaps the essence of PGH isn't factories bellowing smoke (as of their time), nor rotting corpses of bygone industries (perhaps our time). If we have turned a corner, then the art that is currently produced in PGH would show it.

Just a theory...

Monday, March 29, 2010 4:55:00 PM  
Blogger Jim Russell said...

The art does show it. Nothing like the romanticization of a bygone era to demonstrate how a region has moved on.

Rust Belt Chic.

Monday, March 29, 2010 5:17:00 PM  
Anonymous johnnyg said...

If there was any question, I think that the development of the "Is This Art?" App (a collaboration of the Mattress Factory and Deeplocal) proves beyond a doubt that Pittsburgh has moved into the 21st century of Art. Merging art and technology. You can't get much more futuristic.

http://www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=36965

As for the focus on the bad news, that's the media market. I know that even the erudite one who runs this blog doesn't get the P-G delivered. The people who watch local news and read the newspaper here at disproportionately old. The "kids are moving away" story resonates with them.

Monday, March 29, 2010 6:57:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

for Nathan then... Chalkbot = Art

Monday, March 29, 2010 7:44:00 PM  

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