Friday, October 22, 2010

Latest recession stats and the real birth of Steeler Nation

You may have saw the headline news items with the latest stats on Pennsylvania's unemployment rate... down 2/10ths of a percent in September vs. August.  From 9.2% to 9.0%. So good trend, but still a bad number. 

Parsing that a bit, some interesting things pop up.  Within the numbers being reported today the total number of unemployed in the state dropped by over 15K people between the two months.  By my scanning, that is the biggest month over month drop in 27 years.  In fact, with the exception of an extraordinary month in July of 1983 it is the single biggest month over month decline in the number of unemployed across the state in the last 40 years at least. 

July 1983 could be seen (superficially) as a banner month.  Total unemployment in the state dropped by over 100 thousand people. That is pretty historic as that kind of number goes, for us or most anywhere else.  Is that even conceivable, and is it a good thing? I bet a combination of unemployment benefits running out for the major waves of layoffs produced some historic flows into the ranks of discouraged workers, coupled with the peak outmigration from the region produced that number more than anything else.  It was also the month that produced the all time historic drop in the state's labor force.  The stats say the Pennsylvania labor force declined by over 67 thousand people between June and July 1983. That is a mind-numbing statistic much more than the jumps in unemployment that precipitated it. 

Comparing that this months numbers for the state, it is almost the opposite situation with regards to the labor force.  That fairly historic drop in the unemployment count (-15K) last month is matched almost exactly by a 16K increase in employment.. So the force actually blipped up just a bit by a thousand folks.  So there is no comparison to that miasmic month in 1983. 

I've been seaching for anecdotes on when the point came when folks really believed steel was not going to come back.  You can make the case that through typical recession cycles, even in the early 1980's, people believed any dip would be followed by growth in the future.... that the manufacturing workers getting unemployment would be called back at some point.  July 1983 may be the point where many folks realized something had really changed for good.


Anonymous BrianTH said...

So are we reaching the point when people are coming to accept the recession really ISN'T going to hit Pittsburgh full force?

Not bad September job numbers for Pittsburgh, incidentally--after a couple stalled months, it looks like the recovery has started up again, at least this month.

Friday, October 22, 2010 2:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been seaching for anecdotes on when the point came when folks really believed steel was not going to come back.

I imagine it depends on the neighborhood. Tearing down Homestead Works lingers in my mind. While it was still up a lot of people in the area just couldn't conceive that it would never open again. The idea itself seemed absurd, unthinkable. Tearing it down was a metaphor of sorts.

Friday, October 22, 2010 2:23:00 PM  

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