Up, down and all around
One PBT version yesterday said:
The Trib headline earlier in the week says:
Up? Down? Are they looking at different numbers? Nope, see above for source. The PG version parsed a bit:and even the earlier PBT version of the story lead with a different spin on the data:
County? Region? Some counties? Again, this is all reporting on the same monthly report. All the versions are true of course, but you would never be able to tell what the story was if you just read the headlines. Numbers out show the region's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate went up a tenth of a percentage point, while the comparable unemployment rates in Allegheny and Beaver counties are down. The more recent PBT headline is the oddest to a degree. Reporting the unadjusted number is fine, but you want to be careful about what it means. I think it is literally always the case that the unadjusted unemployment rate falls between March and April in Pittsburgh as the cold recedes and employment in things like construction picks up. Literally every year it happens, so you need to take that into account when discussing what it means.
Whatever you want to call ground truth for the region, the nation went up 4 tenths of a percent between March and April. (update: and I forgot today we learn May numbers, up another half percentage point) Given the GM news, hard to see that national trend not continuing some more. But the local unemployment rate has been below the national level for 30 months now. The 1.6 point difference between the two is the largest the local unemployment rate has been below the national rate since June of 1975. The local unemployment rate was below the nation's during most of the recession of the early 1990's, but the most the two trends diverged was 8/10ths of a percentage point for one month. If the divergence now goes beyond 2.0 percentage points (which may well be soon, see update above) it will be the most in the current data we all use going back to 1969.But for those who do not read much past the headline, different folks will come away with different stories depending on which version they saw. Truth is.. all of these tenth of a point changes could easily be revised by next month and well within what counts as sample error in these numbers. If you parse more than you should, the current unemployment rate went up to 7.27%, so the 7.3% is rounding. But to suggest that means anything is much like all of this this monthly parsing of the data. At best it's overinterpretation.
For the longer term trend there is my (google-enhanced) rust belt watch. Even non-Rust-Belt Charlotte has tipped over 12% unemployment. Even once envied Portland has one of the biggest jumps in unemployment around. Charlotte still is amazing to me in that it was exactly 10 years ago it had a unbelievable 2.2% unemployment rate.
I also found this sentence in the PG version a bit curious:
Manufacturing, which lost 100 jobs in the production of nondurable goods in April, lost a total of 7,700 jobs since the same month last year and is at its lowest level of employment since 1990. (emphasis added)Since 1990? This is one of those cases that the data source reports back to 1990 for some technical reasons, but there is nothing important about 1990 in the manufacturing trends. It just happens to be the time series easiest to look at. But manufacturing employment is clearly the lowest here since when? the 1950's. That 90K number for manufacturing employment was once nearly 400K. Ponder that some.
If there is an unreported story anywhere in the latest numbers. One of the more remarkable numbers being reported is that unemployment just for City of Pittsburgh residents is being shown at 6.2%. So not just below the rest of the county and region, but more than two percentage points below the nation. The unemployment rate in the City of Detroit for comparison is currently measured at 22.8%, not just marginally above, but several times higher than that for the nation, almost 4 times that for Pittsburgh. There is an unreported story.