Friday, December 28, 2012

That 70s Economy

So I get feedback on this meme a lot.  Earlier in the week mentioned in passing that the 1970s was not the period when manufacturing hit its miasma across Southwestern Pennsylvania.  There endures a certain mythos that the Steelers played all of their Superbowl seasons with armies (not just Franco's) of unemployed workers cheering for them. The stats just do not match with what actually happened.  Granted there are even books written to the contrary, but go look at the dates.  When the jobs really went away, the fans were cheering for Cliff Stoudt (link added for the yung'uns).

I will admit to a small bit of cherry picking in this, but here is manufacturing employment across the 10 counties of Southwestern Pennsylvania between 1971 and 1979.  I think it's fair to get past a bit of a bump resulting from the Vietnam War and what was generally considered an overheating economy at the end of the very end of the 1960s.  This is what you get for employment that pretty much covers the regular seasons leading to the first 4 Steeler Superbowls. (Superbowl XIV was all of January 20, 1980)

So if you think there was some big and obvious trend down over this period, I don't see it.  I would almost argue that manufacturing employment for the region in the 70s was less volatile than most any decade before.  There was tremendous volatility in manufacturing employment in the region over almost every previous decade. The 70s were pretty stable here in comparison. All the more remarkable when you consider the economic tumult in the national economy during the 1970s.  Stagflation anyone?

In fact manufacturing employment here was trending up near the last 4 years of that graph.  Which may hint at the disconnect.  Some of that trend was the Volkwagen plant starting up.  So diversification in a sense and basic steel itself was not growing for sure.   Only for Pittsburgh would a shift from an automobile dependent steel industry to the automobile industry itself be considered diversification.   'Diversification' we paid a pretty penny for mind you.

If you are still unconvinced that the public,along with the powers that be, t thought manufacturing was strong, and would continue to be the mainstay of the region's economy....  Check out these headlines from the middle of that period.  Sept 1974: Area Economy Reported Strong.  Or better yet from January 1975: Steel is Pittsburgh's Hedge on Recession.  That the sun appears larger just before sunset is also an illusion.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know . . . Pennsylvania "won" the competition for that Volkswagen plant against two sites in Ohio. I can't find a link online, but Automotive News reported this year, as part of its celebration of 40 years of US-built Honda Accords, that after Pennsylvania "won" the Volkswagen plant, Ohio doubled-down on Honda, winning a motorcycle factory for one of the two Ohio sites: a place called Marysville. That plant was so successful that the big fish followed: the Accord assembly plant. The rest, as they say, is history.

Friday, December 28, 2012 9:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Not Ken said...

Oops. 30 years of U.S. built Accords. This is why Briem does the math.

Friday, December 28, 2012 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Population trends for Pittsburgh region were very bad in the 1970s, however.

Friday, December 28, 2012 2:13:00 PM  

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