Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pittsburgh's Seven Year Demographic Itch

So this is worth noting.   Some will see the wonkish news stories trying to decompile the latest dump of population estimates from the friendly gnomes at the Census Bureau.  The summary is that I was kind of expecting the net migration trend to dip negative a small bit in the latest year of data (July 2013 to July 2014,) but Pittsburgh just squeaked by for a 7th straight year of positive net migration. But we will put a * on that positive number. More later.

The news stories will mostly look at the overall population change, which I guess they have to, but the recurring story here is that the Pittsburgh region stands out as a place experiencing natural population decline (more deaths than births).  Since natural population decline is really a demographic legacy of changes literally decades ago, you need to think about it differently from what is happening today in the regional economy.  A big topic I've been talking about for a long time.

Here is total net migration for the Pittsburgh MSA since 2000. The historical trends before this were pretty much all negative every year (with one possible exception around 1991) going back pretty much to the end of WWII.  So the break in trend in mid-decade, with net migration turning positive for the region, was a big deal IMHO.

That the positive trend has extended for seven years is pretty remarkable.  For a region that experienced net migration losses on the order of 50K per year in the early 1980s, just being net even is an accomplishment, but still, the recent trend appears to be contracting.   It likely reflects that in early 2013 you saw the closest convergence of regional and national unemployment rates in the last 8 years. If that convergence had continued I would have really expected this net migration trend to turn negative.  But that trend did not converge more, so we will see how it all plays out next year.

What's the * in the positive net migration story, even if small.  I've graphed total net migration, which is the sum of net domestic migration and net international migration.  In this data, net international is almost always (there are rare exceptions) a positive number by definition.   Domestic migration is the number of people who move within the US each year.  Domestic migration has turned negative for the Pittsburgh MSA (-2,806 for the 2013-2014 period), again probably reflecting the past contraction of regional and national labor force trends.  So the only reason there was an, albeit small, positive net migration (+411) was due to the net international immigration number (+3,217 for 2013-2014). That number is still pretty small relative to most any other metro region in the country, but still responsible for offsetting most of the natural population decline and keeping the population stable. There is the headline.  (if you waited for it).

Addendum.. here is the by county super summary of population change over the most recent year of data:

1-Jul-13 1-Jul-14 Change
Allegheny 1,232,953 1,231,255 -1,698
Armstrong 68,110 67,785 -325
Beaver 170,060 169,392 -668
Butler 185,369 185,943 574
Fayette 134,799 134,086 -713
Washington 208,194 208,187 -7
Westmoreland 361,080 359,320 -1,760
Pittsburgh MSA 2,360,565 2,355,968 -4,597


Anonymous DBR96A said...

The good news is, job growth appears to have picked up in the last 12 months after the malaise of 2013, so I think this year's estimates (released next year) will look better.

Thursday, March 26, 2015 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

Although the net +/- numbers are interesting, I continue to think the big demographics story (largely untold) is the changing composition of the local population.

Thursday, March 26, 2015 7:28:00 PM  
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