Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Big numbers and little numbers

The headlines will focus on the least important factoid to come out with the latest dump of labor force data for the Pittsburgh region.  The local unemployment rate is now 6.7%, dropping 1/10th of a percent between June and July. 

More interesting to me is that we are now 81 months below the national unemployment rate, but there are other numbers of note.  We focus mostly on seasonally adjusted labor force data for a reason, but the raw, or unadjusted, employment count for the Pittsburgh MSA is coming in at 1.202 million in July.  That would be the first time the employment count for the 7 county (current MSA definition) region has gone over 1.2 million.  Yes, ever.  As in ever including before steel jobs went into freefall.

Also of note is that seasonally adjusted employment in the MSA is up 18.6K year over year to 1.183mil in July, also a new all time peak. Basically every month will be a new all time peak as long as there is any positive trend upwards. I am more interested in the labor force trends. Pittsburgh MSA labor force is up a decent 12.9K year over year.  Not the biggest of increases, but when you realize a lot of regions are doing much better this year it is a good sign we are keeping on pace competitively. Earlier in the year my big question was whether convergence was going to catch up to Pittsburgh and we were going to end our streak of faring better than the nation by these metrics. Seems like it has opened up again in a good way, for now.

Anyways....  my relative unemployment graphic to date. 


Anonymous BrianTH said...

Another negative spin I am seeing a lot lately is that the newly-added jobs must be mostly low-paying. In the P-G article, for example, they cited the large number of Leisure and Hospitality jobs added over the year in support of such a proposition.

As usual, this spin seems to be overlooking the fact the largest driver of job growth in the Pittsburgh MSA recently has been "white collar" industry categories like Professional and Business Services and Financial Activities. And not coincidentally, since those industries really started taking off in 2005 or so, the MSA's wages per job have been making up ground on the U.S. Metro Portion wages per job.

In short--our local media doesn't seem capable of fairly reporting what is happening in local labor markets, likely because a fair reporting would be so positive overall that it would defy too much conventional wisdom.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 7:25:00 AM  

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