Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Where is Dr. J. when you need him?

Yes, by now you have read, or at least heard of, the Politico series that is all things Pittsburgh. See: The Robots that saved Pittsburgh.

First off, kudos for the double, potentially triple, entendre.* I do hate to ask a simple question, but how many folks in Pittsburgh are actually employed in any industry or research related to robotics?  Which is not to quibble, but still worth pondering. The bigger question is whether Pittsburgh's success was due to robotics, other information technologies, Marcellus shale, eds and meds, financial services, airlinescupcakes, the G-20 summit here, or the rebirth of manufacturing?  The question itself implies a success that arguably is still a work in progress, at least for some areas, no matter the hype.

What is interesting is how the earned media compounds upon itself. Was not long ago such positive stories on Pittsburgh were few and far between, but not nonexistent, bien sûr. Probably not a coincidence many of the positive stories of the past came from authors with distant perspectives, since the local perspective until recently could best be characterized as nabobism run amok. Any positive sign was written off as a mythic artifact of data not to be believed.Such was (and remains for many) our cognitive dissonance with any idea Pittsburgh's economic trajectory was anything other than bad. Inflection happens. 

Failure is an orphan as they say, but success has many mothers. For me whatever success Pittsburgh has of late derives first and foremost by not being able to identify any one true success. For long the potential 'replacement' for steel was desperately sought, but never found. Maybe we have stopped looking, and as a result maybe we have found it? That or maybe we have just stopped pushing women out of the labor force.

The Politico story comes on the same day as the report of a 3/10ths of a percent drop in Pittsburgh's unemployment rate to 6.3% in December. Yes, some hypothesize, and it is just an hypothesis, that the drop is all due to folks dropping out of the labor force.  Hold that thought for now. If you can accept the radical idea that a drop in the unemployment rate is good news, I'll point out that it was not your average drop. Few month over month drops of 3/10ths of a percentage point have ever been recorded here in Pittsburgh. Ever as in ever. So if the 'dropping out' explanation is correct then we really are dropping out in droves.

Also, and apologies for vanity reference, but with another Politico story in the package I have to point out I was upstaged in large part by a reference to Josh Wander.  See: The Political Makeover of a Rust Belt City.

* Sentence modified because I earlier didn't see the explicit reference to the movie, see page 3. Just a great reference.  And note the Border Guard Bob reference. Bob is dead, long live Bob!


Anonymous marketdiamond said...

Lt Cdr Briem: "That or maybe we have just stopped pushing women out of the labor force."

lol, Yes! Now "we" just push men out of the labor force, all is better!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014 12:15:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

"For me whatever success Pittsburgh has of late derives first and foremost by not being able to identify any one true success."

Exactly. Pittsburgh has been reborn with a diverse economy, meaning it has been getting growth contributions from a lot of different industries. That's not a statement that lends itself to clever article titles, and yet it is probably the best possible answer to the question.

I'm still thinking the big drop in the local unemployment count in recent months is mostly just the unwinding of a prior erroneous over-allocation of the state's unemployed count to the region.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014 7:39:00 AM  

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