Tuesday, July 31, 2007

puzzling pittsburgh pessimism

Here is the latest press release on the employment situation in the Pittsburgh region. What does it say?

Employment: UP
Labor Force: UP
Unemployment: DOWN
Unemployment Rate: DOWN

Yet in this article, the conclusion seems to be: a pretty pitiful performance. And with the article is this graph that shows the regional unemployment coming down from 5% to 4% in the course of a year, yet the caption for the figure is "remaining steady". I needed to go check the definition of steady. If that graph showed an identically sized increase from 5% to 6% what do we think that graph would have had for a title? In fact, the local unemployment rate decline is one of the biggest declines in the nation. steady?

So are there a lot of things I wish were doing better in the region. Absolutely. Dare I mention the equity issues. Does local job growth lag national trends? sure. But to just compare local job growth to national job growth ignores a lot of structural demographic issues that may not make sense. Consider that unlike the US as a whole where employment is up along with population, here employment is up despite population decline.

I have commented earlier here and here on the long term picture, but lets just look at the short term. How about the total unemployment trend in recent years which looks like this:

Another way to look at the data is the difference between the local and national unemployment rates. That picture looks awfully different vs. just a year ago:

Other short takes. Also from the news reports: construction employment is holding steady... last I checked, the casino and the arena have not really begun major construction as yet... How many jobs will those two sites alone put into that number? Those projects may sustain employment through the offseason which is going to do some funny things with the seasonal adjustment of those numbers in the fall and winter.... I will have to muse on that more in the future.

There is something different going on. Historically 4.0% is a very low unemployment rate for the region. When employment hit it's highest point in 1,156,800 million in March of 2001*, the local unemployment rate was actually higher at 4.5%. I can only find 4 months since 1970 when the region's unemployment rate was lower. Two of those months were March and April of this year and the previous months: January and February of 1970. .

In fact... the 1,156,700 employment count for the region would make it the 2nd highest seasonally adjusted employment total in the region since 1970... all of 100 jobs short of the all time high in 2001 which I would place good money was the highest employment count ever in the region. So if the employment count can bump up 200 jobs, will the articles still be dour as they report a new all time high in local employment? Again, you have to take into account that regional population is down ~50,000 people since that employment peak in 2001.

* The press release quotes June 2002 as the highest employment total.. that is the number without seasonal adjustment. The seasonally adjusted employment is what the news usually speaks to and that peak was in March 2001.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew it was a Trib article before I even clicked on the link. And note that the "job growth in Pittsburgh is pitiful" quote is from the Allegheny Institute. The Trib et. al. always paints a negative picture of the City of Pittsburgh, while promoting Allegheny County and "the region" at the city's expense, regardless of facts.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007 7:55:00 PM  
Blogger THE STRANGE MAPS said...


Monday, May 31, 2010 9:39:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home