Saturday, December 20, 2008

more Pgh economy perspective

My friend Stu H. was interviewed on Bloomberg Radio radio yesterday which you can listen to via this MP3 file. Worth listening to for the national perspective, but he also gets into some Pittsburgh specific discussions at around time points 3:30 and 14:30 that are worth hearing.

No specific projections from me for next year. But as Stu looks to see the national economy turning the corner maybe the middle of the next year, the fundamental question is whether locally we can push our momentum far enough into 2009 to ride out the worst of the national recession. The lack of real estate collapse, general stability in health care, the PNC acquisition of NatCity buoying local financial services, and some ongoing large construction projects have all worked to protect us from the tempest thus far and produced what is rare regional employment growth in the US. Most of those factors will not turn around in the next few months and we might really get some bump from the potential infrastructure build-out being talked about.

How far we get before the worst catches up to us is the question. When the national economy turns around will be the key. Stu said his forecast for the rate of GDP decline this coming quarter was on the order of minus 5-6% which is a frightful number and national job losses of -300K to -500K per month through the first quarter if I heard him correct. That is hard to really imagine, but when you look at Detroit by itself which has lost 70,000 jobs over the last year alone and the temporary (which as we all know could easily enough become permanent) auto plant shutdowns in the news have yet to really impact those numbers you have to believe Stu was being optimistic a bit.

But something I wrote years ago, in surely some different circumstances, yet still something I would say again today: Pittsburgh Can Carry On.


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