Wednesday, December 02, 2009

unemployment factoids

Yup.  Unemployment is up locally.  Still there are some remarkable factoids of note:

1.9:  that is the percentage point difference between local unemployment rate and the national unemployment rate.We've been bouncing around this number for the last year, but before that it is not something we have even been close to since the mid to early 1970's.  Not quite a record, there was a single month where that metric would have been 2.1 in the early 1970's. 

3 years - 37 months technically.  That is how long it has been since the local unemployment rate was higher than the national unemployment rate.  Also not qute a record.  There was a 39 month period between September 1973 and November 1976 which was longer, but barring some unprecedented convergence between local and national economic conditions we will set a record of sorts in a couple more months and then some.


Some people misconstrue why I keep pointing this out.   It's not to say everything is rosy.  Recession is recession and it ain't fun no matter where you are.  But the ability of the region to weather a recession with any modicum of stability is a huge story in itself.  What I focus on more is how these factors impact things like migration.  Models of migration show a real impact not on the absolute economic conditions in a region, but the relative economic conditions.   Consider... the early 1980's was a severe national recession, but people still chose to leave the region in hordes since it was even worse here.  In early 1990's there was a recession here and in the US, but it was a period where out-migration was minimal.  There is even a year where the census estimated there was net inmigration to Pittsburgh around 1990-1991.  All because our recession was less bad locally compared to the nation, but it was only a short period that was true and it was not by much that local conditions were any better than nationally.   Nothing like this period.

Late 1990's saw the lowest unemployment rates the region has seen in decades, yet there was still a moderate out-migration because the national economic expansion made economic conditions in other places even better.  Push and pull factors have always been at the core of understanding regional migration patterns .  This which will soon be the longest period of relatively positive unemployment rate has to be a precursor to better migration trends in coming years. It's because it's not just the current data, but how sustained that trend has been.  People don't make instantaneous decisions to move, but typically are moving in relation to their personal economic conditions over the previous year or two. 

So you have to keep in mind migration when looking at current labor force data.  It's the complete opposite situation from the 1980' a sense.  Back then the horrible unemployment data locally would have been much much worse if the folks who were streaming out of the region were staying in place to remain unemployed locally.  Today I am pretty sure the labor force data has more unemployed, or discouraged workers, locally because we are not only losing fewer folks due to migration, but are even attracting folks from elsewhere.At least in a net sense that has to be true.  The Detroit Labor force alone has gone down nearly 90K in just the last year.  Pittsburgh's is +/- a thousand or so from the range it has been in the last several years.  Those Detroit folks and lots of others are going somewhere or they will be soon.  All while people who might normally be leaving Pittsburgh don't have the options to move away as they might normally have. 

The nearby Johnstown Tribune Democrat actually had a good piece on all of this last week going beyond the superficial that gets at a lot of the real issues. See:  Labor Force Changes Cloud Local Jobs Forecast
Just to show it's not just Detroit impacting us....  let's end with another animated graphic different folks keep coming up with showing job creation and destruction during the recession by metro area.  Note the Katrina effect before the recession actually... and then note how we are sandwiched between some of the largest pockets (swaths?) of job destruction in the nation in the last year. 


Anonymous Alex Botkin said...

The map of unemployment is fascinating. It was interesting to see the little harbinger of future real estate calamity in the St. Petersburg/Orlando area many months before we were overcome nationally with the recession. As you noted, we were dancing to our own economic tune between the heavy pulsations in the regions around us.

Friday, December 04, 2009 12:31:00 AM  

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