Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How low is low?

So I typed this up and discovered at the end something else of wonkish note.  Calculating the Pittsburgh region's unemployment rate is a bit less clear than I thought.. and I already thought we overinterpret these monthly data dumps for a host of reasons.  So the state Department of Labor reported that the Pittsburgh region's unemployment rate, when seasonally adjusted, came in at 6.7% for February (and my division of their numbers gets you to the ominous 6.66%)   OK.  That is what we all normally look at and the number the media reports on.  Just recently the US Bureau of Labor Statistics started reporting its own seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for the Pittsburgh region.  In the past BLS reported the unadjusted unemployment rates for most MSAs but only seasonally adjusted rates for a subset of regions which didn't include Pittsburgh in recent years.  Last year they started reporting their own seasonally adjusted rates for most MSAs. The BLS calculation of the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Pittsburgh in February is 6.8%

Which to use?  For the comparison across MSAs I'll stick with the BLS calculation for the moment.

So how (relatively) low is the region's unemployment rate?  The top 40 labor markets are in the graph below.  The 5 places with lower unemployment rates include 2 regions with sizable presence of government jobs (Washington and Virginia Beach)...  government jobs which Pittsburgh lacks.. and two regions which may top us in the proportion of higher education related employment (Boston and Austin). Leaves only Minneapolis.   Their low unemployment rate must be because of all the bikes.

Yes, of course... the 'relative' unemployment rate is not really relevant to anyone individually.  In reality unemployment is either zero or 100% depending on your personal circumstances.  Still, how high is the region's unemployment rate?  Since 1970, the region's average unemployment rate works out to be a bit over 6.6%.  The nation's average unemployment rate works out to 6.4%.  So we have a bit to go to reach those levels... but at (6.7 or 6.8) it is not a big jump.


Anonymous BrianTH said...

Of course given Pittsburgh's economic track since 1970, average for that period likely still counts as nonideal, aka above "full employment".

That's not to say we are not doing relatively well, particularly considering we are very likely attracting a lot of job-seeking migrants from other labor markets.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 10:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Perhaps we should forget about Cleveburgh and start looking at Columburgh.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 12:44:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

The effect isn't as strong as it used to be, but for a while there going to the Waterfront to eat involved mostly Columbus chains.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 1:18:00 PM  
Anonymous DBR96A said...

State capitals appear to be a factor as well. Austin is the capital of Texas. Boston is the capital of Massachusetts. Minneapolis is twin cities with St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota.

Hell, look at the three other MSAs that are tied with Pittsburgh in unemployment. Columbus is the capital of Ohio. Nashville is the capital of Tennessee. San Antonio is effectively a giant military town.

As for the colleges and universities, if you combine the student bodies (undergraduate and postgraduate) of Pitt, Carnegie Mellon and Duquesne, you'll still end up with a smaller student body than Ohio State, the University of Texas or the University of Minnesota individually. Furthermore, the latter three universities are all public, whereas Pitt is only quasi-public, and Carnegie Mellon and Duquesne are private.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that even the one built-in advantage that Pittsburgh has isn't quite as advantageous as it looks when you consider the size of the public state universities in Columbus, Austin and St. Paul. It really appears that Pittsburgh is doing what it's doing with the least amount of assistance from the government, the military and academia combined.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 3:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DBR96A: Right on. And that's the real reason why, I think, that Republicans so strongly support military spending. Sure, it plays well at the ballot box. But it also pumps a ton of federal tax dollars into flamingly red districts. State Impact reports that 5% of all wages and salaries in Oklahoma, for example, are direct military jobs (active duty and civilian employees combined). And that's not counting indirect economic impact like contractors working for the military. Then you need to count the 5,600 employees at the Mike Moroney FAA center, which trains pretty much all the air traffic controllers in the world.

Thursday, April 12, 2012 10:44:00 AM  
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