Friday, August 31, 2012

Invisible hand hard to see

So I am really missing something here.  Why is there not someone out there noticing a big no brainer opportunity and investing themselves in the infrastructure needed to sell shale gas to local utilities? 

See Trib today: Equitable’s plan to use more local gas is challenged

There is a deeper story embedded in all of that.  What does this really say about the ability of drilled shale gas  in Pennsylvania to make it to market?  The story is pretty much saying somebody thinks there is a market failure occurring: Gas being developed that can't even make it to the most local of markets without a regulated subsidy to make it happen.    "To market, to market......" as the saying goes.

Speaking of markets doing as they ought to.  PG points out the plunging price of ethane: Drillers rattled as ethane, propane prices plunge. Funny how that works.  Big new supply. Lower prices. If I read the news correctly the big new supply of 'wet' gas in nearby Ohio is only beginning to flow so this trend will continue yes?

To keep sight of the big picture.  It's all about the storage capacity of natural gas in the US.  There are pundits for every position, but a compilation of a lot of the relevant stats are here.   It really all comes down to the winter weather.  Gas producers may rejoice that the Farmers Almanac at least says the eastern US will be colder this winter compared to last


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Things that make Libertarians implode

Only for the uberwonky the 2012 Census of Governments has its first release of data.  So big Census data today is just the updated list of all state and local governments in the United States. Census Bureau Reports There Are 89,004 Local Governments in the United States.   That's a lot of government.

and what nut would make this graphic?  Ok, it isn't updated with the data just released, but from the 2007 version of the Census of Governments is below. Technically it can't be updated until the next Census of Governments releases employment data for 2012.  All that came out today was the list of governments.  It is hard work just counting them all. 

This is every state and local government in the nation scaled by the number of full time workers employed by each.  The low res version below can't begin to come across; you can download the full PDF file which has much better resolution.  Warning it's a 50mb file in itself.


"some ridiculous numbers"

So while I try to shy away from stuff that looks like corporate PR... the Pittsburgh focus here is interesting.   Note the "some ridiculous numbers" quote about a third of the way in.. and points for the image of Downtown with a non-working fountain.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Parks = $$

So the WSJ has an article today out of some research out of New York City on the value of being located near a park:  Parks Elevate Office Rents   - h/t @otiswhite for catching that.

So just a shout out to a former student who looked at something similar here and quantified the  $$ impact on residential land values resulting from the Nine Mile Run Redevelopment. In the most recent PEQ if you didn't read it (starting on bottom of page 1):  Brownfield, Greenfield: A Hedonic Estimation of the Remediation and Redevelopmentof the Slag Heap at Nine Mile Run

What is a great book topic someday would be to try and measure how the value gradient for being located near a river in the region has changed over the last couple decades. 


Daily Hagiography: Educated (and 'resilient') Pittsburgh

Lots of Bloomberg love of late.  Today read all the Pittsburgh (virtual) ink in: Shortage of Educated Workers Boosts U.S. Joblessness.  Their reporting is mostly on a recent report from Brookings looking at how metro areas are faring.

But note the different tone there than what you read locally about education in the labor force.  Maybe we can explain Pittsburgh's relative performance of late (68 months below the national unemployment rate and now the surge in the size of the region's labor force) with educational attainment.  Remember if you look at the population's educational attainment adjusted for age then Pittsburgh is one of the most educated places in the nation.  If you look at the proportion of workers with a graduate degree, not just a bachelor's degree, then Pittsburgh may at this point be the single most educated metro.  When I looked at it is was far less than measurement error between us and Washington, DC.  

What gets me is that even without doing the age-adjustment we are showing up now as one of the more educated places.  Remember we still have a big concentration of older population and our older generation really did not need post-secondary education for a successful career in the mills.  The common benchmarking for educational attainment is to look at the highest degree awarded for the entire population age 25 and over.  For Pittsburgh, that type of measurement just captures that we are an old region and really pulls down how we come out.  So you get a very different result, at least for Pittsburgh when you focus on those still in the labor force, and in particular the younger workers in the labor force.  That would be a much more significant future indicator.

How much has Pittsburgh changed compared to other regions.  I'll just repost this that says it all a lot more clearly than my explanation:


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Labor Force Metrics 101

So the stats out today say the region's unemployment rate is up 3/10ths of a percent.  I wonder a bit. While all data out there has issues, I don't like poking at methodology too much since it lends itself for folks coming to doubt the data.  You just need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of virtually all data you look at other than maybe the spot temperature outside as reported.  I guess we can trust that for the most part... or maybe not?

Still, I don't quite believe it.  There is an unspoken truth that what we know of the monthly metro-area unemployment rate is less than what you might infer given all the news coverage of that one factoid.  There is no time for the full seminar one could have on the subject, but the labor force data you see monthy is from the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program.

Read just one snippet from the LAUS methodology. Skip down to the section subtitled "Estimates for substate labor market areas" and skip the first paragraph which wil not apply to us.  The whole think will explain certain issues, but in particular read this paragraph on counting the number of folks unemployed:

The second category, "new entrants and reentrants into the labor force," cannot be estimated directly from UI statistics, because unemployment for these persons is not immediately preceded by the period of employment required to receive UI benefits. In addition, there is no uniform source of new entrants and reentrants data for States available at the LMA level; the only existing source available is from the CPS at the State level. Separate estimates for new entrants and for reentrants are derived from econometric models based on current and historical state entrants data from the CPS. These model estimates are then allocated to all Labor Market Areas (LMAs) based on the age population distribution of each LMA. For new entrants, the area’s proportion of 16-19 years population group to the State total of 16-19 years old population is used, and for reentrants, the handbook area’s proportion of 20 years and older population to the State total of 20 years and older population is used  (emphasis added)
That paragraph and a few earlier parts get into this big issue that what is going on in the metro area is pretty much presumed to be the same as is happening across the entire state.  It is never true, especially for Pennsylvania.  It is not a flaw, you do what you have to do given the limited data, but at times like this it is important to understand the methodology.

(and mostly for frequent commenter BrianTH here)  This also is why the reported labor force data for the City of Pittsburgh proper is worth taking with a grain of salt.  The methodology for reporting municipal area labor force data is in the following section of the methodology.  If the metro area data has issues, those extrapolations (warranted or not) become ever more acute in the small areas with labor force data being reported on.  I mean, the state actually reports a change in unemployment rate each month for Ross Township.  Rest assured neither they nor any of us have any meaningful idea what happened in Ross Township last month, up or down to any precision worth reporting on. 

Where would there be uncertainty in the unemployment rate?  Most folks believe the unemployment rate is counted by just adding up folks getting $$ benefits from the state and dividing.  Not true.  All the folks looking for work are counted as unemployed including those who either ran out of benefits or lets say you don't qualify for benefits at all because you are just entering, or reentering the labor force.   We can count the folks getting benefits, but the number on others being counted as unemployed have to come from other data sources which if you read the methodology you will see are often extrapolated from state patterns.  Actual benefits-receiving unemployed are well less than half the total 'unemployed' in Pennsylvania, so it really matters how you add count them all.   If you really dig into it, go look up the new (initial) unemployment claims in Pennsylvania for the week ended July 28.  I see a number that is the lowest it has been in just about 4 years. Yet the state's unemployment rate is moving up at a decent clip.

So what does that all mean?  Probably the harder number of what is happening in the metro area economy each month is the non-farms jobs number coming from the Current Employer Survey (CES) which has no major extrapolation problem.  Sample error in that, but not such a big assumption that what is happening locally mirros the state.  What does the CES say these days?  Pretty much we are pushing to new employment highs here.

Still.. what is odd in the data just out is what it says about the region's labor force.   If the labor force really went up by 7,700 over the month then we are well into record territory for the size of the region's labor force.  It is really odd when you consider most would say it is one of those quasi rules that labor force participation should go down if the unemployment rate is shooting up... yet the opposite would nominally appear to be the case in Pittsburgh.  Of course it is not the case.  I will repeat that labor force participation rates move much more glacially than most assume when trying to explain these monthly shifts in the numbers.. 

To put a point on the labor force story (or lack of story as it were) take a look at the updated graph of where we are going...

Curious trend there over last couple of years for the region... a trend which is even more surprising when you consider it is not really supported by any trend in local demographics.  I went into the longer parse on that last month when we reached a new all-time labor force peak for the region. 

So if you read any of that above.  My personal take is one of two things is happening.. or one of two things almost have to be happening.  Either the non-benefits receiving unemployed count is being overestimated for the region because it is an extrapolation from state data, which would make the unemployment rate look higher than it really is... or....  there really is a sizable flow of new workers moving into the region.  Each would make the headline today a bit different.     If I am wrong and the common wisdom is right that the whole answer here is that the labor force participation rate just in Pittsburgh is shooting up??  Then that is a big story unto itself since someone would have to explain why Pittsburgh of all places is going against national trends, but also against the pattern almost always true that the unemployment rate and the labor force participation are negatively correlated. 

and when I say that more people are moving here, I of course mean in terms of net migration.  So it could be that fewer are leaving.  That may be the nexus of all of this.  Since we are such a prodigious producer of college graduates, and given the semi-anemic state of the economy in a lot of regions folks.. the trends may all be reflecting a larger number of recent grads unable to find work elsewhere and are remaining in place here. That would all be quite consistent with this recent surge in the region's unemployment rate coming right as the school year ended.  If true then Border Guard Bob was successful in the end.  Of course he had to tank the national economy to make it happen.  Who knew he went to work for AIG after he was fired here? 


Monday, August 27, 2012

Allegheny tops Cook County

The thing that gets me about this whole voter id debate here in Pennsylvania is that there are so many other political process things the folks in Harrisburg could be spending time on to make an improvement. Long before the voter id debate popped up I noted the demographic evidence does not say much is amiss in terms of who shows up at the polls. What else could use a fraction of the attention voter id is getting? Lots of things I guess, but if you wanted to improve the voting process itself?

I have brought up in the past the lack of interest the powers that be have in reform of voting districts in Allegheny County.  Do we really need 1,322 different voting districts in the county? When you count up the poll workers needed at each including election judges, clerks, etc and doubled for both majority and minority parties you wind up with a veritable army of folks needed each election day. Some districts typically have only a handful of voters show up, while others have thousands. The inefficiency that gets me is that it is not a geography driven thing any longer.  I once voted at a location which had 4 different polls located in the same room.  That makes sense how?  We redistrict and muck with the boundary of every other legislative district in the nation every decade, but there is virtually no change in Allegheny county voting districts going back decades.

Anyway, I was wondering if given our large number of districts does Allegheny County have the smallest average voting district size?  At least among urban counties since there are a lot of really small counties out there.  The answer is no actually.  I have obsessed on the benchmarking and calculated the number of voting districts in every county in the nation and matched it to county populations in 2010.  So we just take an abitrary cutoff of counties with greater than 500,000 folks in 2010 what does that look like? I count 127 such counties large enough and I put that full list into Google Docs

When ranked according to which of the 127 counties have the smallest average populations per district I get this.   Allegheny County is actually ranked #7, so 6 counties have smaller average voting district populations, but 120 have larger average districts.  I am not sure the average is the issue actually since in Allegheny County the difference in sizes across districts is huge.  I once found a voting district with a single vote cast in an election. I still wonder a bit how that is possible.  Does that mean the actual poll workers at that voting location were not residents of that particular district?  Or they just didn't bother to vote while they were there all day?  Has there ever been a voting district with no recorded vote in a called election? 

Anyway, here is my calculation of the the top 15 list of counties in the US with the smallest voting district size in population.  Remember that total population is a lot larger than the actual ballots ever cast.  Some are too young, some unregistered, some just don't participate.  In the end... Go St. Louis!

Smallest Average Voting District Population by County (2010)
Counties > 500,000 in 2010

County State Voting Districts (2010) Population (2010) Population/district
St. Louis County Missouri 1,583 998,954 631.1
King County Washington 2,573 1,931,249 750.6
Cuyahoga County Ohio 1,420 1,280,122 901.5
Philadelphia County Pennsylvania 1,687 1,526,006 904.6
Kern County California 924 839,631 908.7
Snohomish County Washington 772 713,335 924.0
Allegheny County Pennsylvania 1,322 1,223,348 925.4
Hamilton County Ohio 859 802,374 934.1
Monroe County New York 793 744,344 938.6
Montgomery County Ohio 548 535,153 976.6
Jackson County Missouri 663 674,158 1,016.8
Cook County Illinois 4,873 5,194,675 1,066.0
Fresno County California 864 930,450 1,076.9
Westchester County New York 881 949,113 1,077.3
Summit County Ohio 474 541,781 1,143.0


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bob's alter ego

So to be clear, I have long held there is nothing untoward in any data on the rate at which people, especially young people, are leaving Pittsburgh.  What Pittsburgh falls behind in, and has for a long time, is the rate at which people from elsewhere move into the region.  That applies to both international immigrants, and domestic migrants moving here from elsewhere in the nation.  That by no means implies nobody is coming here, in fact there are sizable flows of people who move into the region each and every year.

Still, there is good news on that front at as well, and it is a more recent phenomenon if anything. For more on that I will just refer to some maps I generated and posted here.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

So has natural gas drilling increased in Pennsylvania?

This week EIA hightlights this look at how natural gas development has changed in Pennsylania over the last 7 years.


Friday, August 24, 2012

29 is the new zero

So here is an issue a lot of us have been kvetching about for a long time.  Boomberg has this today on the vast unknown of how all the thousands of municipal pension funds in Pennsylvania spend to administer their pension plans: Pennsylvania Pays Pension Penalty as Bond Costs Climb.   It may be the single biggest black hole in Pennsylvania public finance.  and the administration costs probably are just the part of the iceberg you can see.  Nobody really can tell you whether the investments all those micro-plans are making really make sense.  Even the big plans that have lots of eyes on them do some really bizarre things that lose $millions.  Imagine what we don't know about the investment decisions of the other 3,000 or so pension plans in Pennsylvania.
Locally I can’t read the pension news any longer since it all makes so little sense to me. Today:  City Pension Board Rejects Studying ‘Realistic’ Returns.  Pension doing well, pension doing poorly?  Who knows really?  The latest update on the status of the Pittsburgh pension fund is that it's funding ratio went down by 1.7%.  OK what does that mean?

The numbers mean very little.  Skipping the long story, the pension ‘fund’ includes in its valuation a notional asset made up of a semi-codified promise of future parking tax revenue.  It is said the promise of future revenues have increased the funding ratio of the pension fund by 29%.  We will skip the fact that law and contracts all effectively mean that the city has promised to pay the pension fund anyway.  If the promise gets to be valued as an asset, then there isn't any real need to be quantifying how funded the system is in the first place  OK, that is almost philosophical.  Skip the big picture question, but the real question is how well funded is Pittsburgh's pension system? 

So think about it.  If the pension fund had zero liquid or semi-liquid assets then it would still have this promise of future payments that kind of exists no matter.  If there were no liquid assets then you can’t spend the future promise of payments unless you borrow against them. So if consistent with the regular reporting on this, the official calculation would be that the pension fund would be funded at a 29% funding ratio.  No cash to send out checks, but no matter.  In other words 29 is the new zero.

So even if the news is minimal, the issue won't go away even if the city wants it to.  For the microscopic % out there who might be able to read this past the paywall, but Bondbuyer recently covered us: Pittsburgh Wants toEnd Oversight, But Pensions Present Problems.  PBT earlier in the month if you missed it: Pittsburgh’s pension-fund projections met with skepticism

and as mentioned here in the past.. there are some more interesting things coming down the road with regards to public pension accounting nationally. 



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sic Semper Bob

OK....  so follow along now.

First, you get a fairly complete synopsis of my thoughts on the 'young people leaving' meme in this just out:  The Young Person Myth

Now I admit I get pinged on for not letting go of the BorderGuard Bob meme in itself.  The idea that young people are not fleeing has not been a part of any data apparent to me fora long time now.  So I may be wrong, but nobody can say I am inconsistent.  Apologies for those sick of hearing about Bob, but it really is an idea that just will not die in Pittsburgh.  I routinely have conversations to this day with someone who wants to do something or another to 'retain' people and do whatever it takes to keep them from leaving.  Especially the idea of keeping more young college graduates here as if it is possible to keep young college grads from moving.. or if it is even possible to keep more than we are already retaining.  Border Guard Bob was a big deal.   I saw the story boards for the Border Guard Bob production being toured around and the projected ad buy I remember clearly as being touted was going to be ~$8mil and that was nearly 15 years ago.  Real money and the real cost was not the $$ but the self-defeating message it gave to ourselves... and let's not even ponder what fun the world might have had with it all.  It was a pre-sarcastic age (no Colbert) so it may not have been so bad.   

But for those who think I make up Border Guard Bob (I really do get that thought on rare occasion), don't read my earlier thoughts on the subject, but how about this in the PBT in 1999: Why I should be Border Guard Bob. 

Now if you read that piece it says Pittsburgh should save itself by keeping one student-resident, a Brian Mendelssohn. So what happened to him.  Did he take Bob's advice? Now I don’t know Mr. Mendelssohn, but I  hope it is the same BM who now owns the former  Arsenal Bank building mentioned in this CP story yesterday on a potential new hotel in Lawrenceville Looks like he stayed in town.
Thanks Bob!  You succeeded by osmosis. 
 P.S.   I sure hope it is the same guy or else just ignore all of that.  


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Daily Ranking - Voting with their feet edition

So the other day I put up my calculation showing Hawaii losing its labor force most rapidly, while Pennsylvania of all places is attracting folks the quickest.

So compare and contrast with your daily ranking via CNN of the latest Economist's Global Livability Survey.

Now look up where Honolulu and Pittsburgh fall.  It all is just yet another index you might not bat an eye at any longer... but lots of deeper issues embedded in how that all works out.  The role of amenities in regional growth, migration and the ever more euphemistic 'talent attraction' are all related to how those two factoids work out.    More broadly the debate over whether people follow jobs, or do jobs follow people.



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

10% or bust

Let's stick with the state theme for now.  So there is a lot of news today about the state of manufacturing in Pennsylvania.   Seems like some of that might be slightly interested in what we know about past trends.   Here is that trend data in manufacturing employment put in terms of a percentage of total employment.

What do I see? Basically a long term trend with brief acceleration in 2008-2009 as the recession impacts got the trend ahead of itself.  Since then we have basically been within an insignificant digit bouncing around the all time low of just below 10% of the  total jobs in the state coming from manufacturing.  Incredibly flat as these things go over the last several years.  Barely a blip up or down...  flattest it has ever been in a sense. 

The comparable number for the Pittsburgh region you ask?  7.66%. 


Monday, August 20, 2012

Trouble in Paradise

Speaking of data produced in Harrisburg, last week was the monthly dump of labor force data for the state.  All bad, right? Let's go beyond the headline and look at national data to do some simple benchmarking to see how Pennsylvania did compared to other states.  I'll only pose one question with this which is: other than recent history, how far would you have to go back for Pennsylvania to come out near the top in this metric?  I don't actually know the answer to that btw... and am too lazy to figure it out right now. 

But lets take out the District of Columbia out just for argument's sake.  In this state data the District of Columbia means the district itself.  So not even the metro region there on the other side of the Appalachians, but just the city proper of roughly 618K people.  Looking just at states the same data looks like this:

Note things not faring well in Hawaii.  Still you think someone in the greater public infosphere might take note that it is Pennsylvania with the fastest growing labor force in the nation.  Maybe too much cognitive dissonance in that to report on it.  If I could do that thing Mr. Spock did with his eyebrow.......


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Draw your own map

So up in Cuyahoga County someone thinks their 59 municipalities are bit too many: Redraw Cuyahoga County to erase duplication and save money: Joe Frolik

They have just no idea.

Neat map tool they have their though.  Could have some fun with that here. 


Saturday, August 18, 2012

To parse

So just to go beyond the headlines a bit looking at some recent news on the state's unemployment rate for July.  Headline is the unemployment rate ticked up 3/10th's of a percent which is not good.  Yet at the same time the labor force increased and is just a blip below its all time high that came in November 2008 before the recession impacts kicked into the labor force stats. 

That is for the state Along with the state data the local data on total nonfarm jobs came out as well. That data showed a decrease in 7,900 jobs for the region between June and July.   Puts us now below the all time employment peak reached last month, but it is the highest job count for a July ever. And yes for those who dispute it, those 'all time' declaratives include the job counts before the steel jobs dropped. 

But looking just at the change from June to July.  A decline.  Bad?  Must be bad right?

Maybe not.  Between June and July the job count in the region always falls mostly as a result of cyclical fluctuations and the end of the school year for many.  So if you go look at how much of a drop is normal this time of year I get this.

So let's sum up.  June total nonfarm jobs for the Pittsburgh MSA were the highest ever recorded.  The drop between June and July is the lowest comparable monthly drop in more than two decades.  What's that all give you?

Well in June the total job count of 1.175 million was just 3,000 over where it was at in that June 2001 bubble going on locally. Not a big delta other than for the symbolism.  For last month (July) the total job count 1.167 million was 13,000 over the next highest June which was also in 2001.  Trend?   and if you ask me what is most interesting to watch is that these all time highs are being reached despite construction employment in the region being at some of its lowest comparable levels in years.  Those missing 5-10K jobs would make those new highs look awfully different if we could add them in.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Illawarra and Pittsburgh - perfect together

So I thought this may be the only news article in history that connects Pittsburgh with Illawarra. and I thought I knew my geography.  I needed help with this one.  From the Illawarra Mercury which is always part of my daily news feed:

Uni forges Wollongong rebirth: Pittsburgh mayor

No matter what you think of the man, we all need a retirement gig like that. 

and you know what.. I am way wrong.  Lots of Pittsburgh-Illawarra symbiosis.  Yes, there is a team called the Illawarra Steelers. Forget Steely McBeam, meet Stanley the Steeler.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Waiting for Exports - Shale Gas Version

Something that might be of minor interest across all of greater Frackylvania.

A new report just out from Rice University debunking some assumptions about the future of natural gas in the US.  Read:  U.S. LNG Exports: Truth and Consequence

So if we do not start exporting it... where will it all go?  Still waiting for someone to point out to me a regular old consumer with an arms-length purchase and use of a natural gas automobile in the city of Pittsburgh.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Is Downtown dying?

Got your attention?


So there are times when you really need to understand your data before jumping to conclusions. Generally speaking a lot of us are loathe to ever use data reported by zip code. Zip code areas are a bit arbitrary and don't really align to anything else. Data collected by zip code has some issues you really have to think about before overinterpreting. Still, you wind up being forced to look at some data by zip code because there sometimes is just no other data available on small geographic areas.

Which is all a disclaimer before looking at the latest data out from the Census Bureau's Zip Code Business patterns program. One perpetual question here is what is happening Downtown? The Zip Code data is for jobs by place of work, but that is what you want to look at Downtown.   Most often when you see employment data reported in the news it is a count by place of residence. For places like Downtown, the difference between a count of jobs by place of residence and jobs by place of work are completely different numbers. Soooo....When I add together the job counts for zip codes 15222 and 15219 (the main Zip Codes covering Downtown and some environs into the Hill District and the Strip District) over the last decade the trend looks like this.

Here is the thing. I don't believe there is any real trend obvious in that data. If you have ever looked at what the raw data looks like you will notice some important things. If you go back a decade or so you will have seen there were a lot of establishments being reported as located Downtown that likely were not really located there. My take is a lot of smaller businesses were winding up being reported in the location of their main branches or even for their accountants on occassion. I believe the data gnomes at the state have worked hard over the last decade to clean up that particular data issue and you see the results early in the last decade. So what appears as a decline in jobs roughly a decade ago is really data cleaining IMHO. Then there has been a general cleaning resulting from establishment reclassifications. If you are not careful a HQ location can have more employment attributed to it than is really ground truth. That has been cleaned up as well. So I think that a number between 90K and 95K has been the consistent number of jobs located in Downtown between the rivers for quite some time even if it appeared higher 10-15 years ago.

If there has been any decline in jobs it likely is mostly attributable to retail sector jobs. One decline in Downtown employment has likely been in retail since there are now significantly fewer large department stores than in the past. The large department stores were significant concentrations of jobs. These job counts mostly will not differentiate between part-time and full-time, or high pay or low paying jobs. Department stores being big concentrations of part time work means they really can add a significant number of jobs.

So yes there are big things going on Downtown as there are in all dynamic places. Some jobs have moved out of the "Golden Triangle" proper yet remained close. Alcoa's jobs moved over the river. Ongoing dispersal from the old Regional Economic Tower will have an impact. Not that long ago the legacy of Kaufmann's kept a decent sized back office staff Downtown. All while the banks have all had big expansions Downtown. I think there are more lawyers Downtown than ever and all sorts of other things churning. In jobs or migration, churn isn't bad. Anyway.

If anyone really thinks jobs located Downtown have shrunk much over the decade... what are parking rates these days? More importantly, has anyone pegged the over/under for what percentage Downtown parking rates will go up as bus routes keep getting cut. I have been thinking about this some. A lot of commuters Downtown will find alternative ways to get to work... but there will not be any real escape for those who pay for parking.

So what do the jobs downtown pay. The same ZBP data also has good data on payrolls. So here is the total payroll at the two Downtown zips going back a few years. So even with a big decline in job counts, the total payroll has generally been pushing up at a rate above that of inflation.

So now put the two together and you get an average payroll $ per job.

This gets more interesting. So the average payroll Downtown peaked at over $66K per job Downtown in 2008.  Finance and law both took disproportionate hits in the recession and are likely the cause of the decline in subsequent years. Again that is just the average which includes the retail that still exists there. So the non-retail average is higher for sure. What was that about parking costs?

  Now.. the real question is how competitive Downtown is compared to other areas of the city/county/region. Clearly Downtown has higher paying jobs than most anywhere else, but is it likely to remain so in the future. So I computed the same average payroll per job for the county over the same years. The MSA average is unsurprisingly significantly lower than for Downtown... but here is where the rubber meets the road. How has the ratio of pay been trending. Here is what I get for the average payroll per job Downtown compared to the Pittsburgh MSA as a whole.. Generally a trend up and inthe future we will see if the downdraft between 2008 and 2010 has turned around.

So if anything... the concentration of higher paying jobs in the county, which itself has a disproportionate concentration of the higher paying jobs in the region, is trending up pretty clearly. So the next time you hear anyone even suggest that jobs are fleeing the city or Downtown.. or have ever fled the city in the past... ask to see their data they are basing that conclusion on...

Finally... for the history buffs or those who think all numbers in the past were higher.  On this question of how stable Downtown has employment has been... here is something from p7 of the Mass Transportation Study of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, Part 2 that the ACCD commissioned in 1951.  Read and compare the reference there for the jobs count in the 'Golden Triangle'. You might need to click on the image to read the precise number.


Sunday, August 05, 2012

Diaspora Watch: Mary Louise Rasmuson

If you didn't catch this obituary in the NYTimes for Mary Lousie née Milligan Rasmuson.

Born in East Pittsburgh, WWII Veteran, CMU (MM) and Pitt grad and once head of the Womens Army Corps (WAC).


Thursday, August 02, 2012

Cleveburgh too far

Just too much to allegory in the news that a co-owner of the Steelers is buying the Cleveland Browns.

It turns out that the real origin of 'Cleveburgh' is not only from Cleveland, but comes has its origins in the Browns/Steelers rivalry at the time (that would be in pre-slide years for those too young to remember).

Or some team called the Browns that is.   My Ohio friends get a bit mad at me when I point out that the Browns actually left town some years ago.  The real Browns had some serious serious fans.  The Dawg Pound today can't quite fill the seats they have.  Except for a few games each year. 


Wednesday, August 01, 2012


That would be: Random Links of the Day

of local interest...   we drink a lot.. we really drink a lot:

and just for fun: