Sunday, June 28, 2015

Obamacare and Pittsburgh

Just a question for someone else to try and answer... but says: The Supreme Court’s Obamacare Decision Is Already Worth $3 Billion For Insurers

Begs a Pittsburgh question... What is the Obamacare decision worth to Pittsburgh's economy?  Maybe a bit more holistically....  What will the Affordable Care Act mean to the Pittsburgh economy in the long run?  Seems like one of those things someone should have looked at by now?

If only Mr. Windle was a nurse and not a teacher, there would be some better PR on this.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

'New' data and Pittsburgh's Hispanic populations

So here is a funny thing. I know many are excited by the headline that the Hispanic population locally is going up. See this version in the Trib: Hispanic migration to Western Pennsylvania double national rate

You know, the equally true headline could be "Growth in Pittsburgh's Hispanic population is slowing"

That's right. The news in the numbers just out are not actually new in any form. The annual growth rate of, for example Allegheny County's Hispanic Population has been coming in at 4 or more percent for many years... at least according to the data being reported on today. Don't believe me.. here is the data behind the headline today except not limited to just the most recent year: Here is the annual growth rate in Allegheny County's Hispanic population since 2010:

Allegheny County Hispanic Population 2010-2014:

Change over previous year
2014 23,377 921 4.1%
2013 22,456 1,046 4.9%
2012 21,410 1,134 5.6%
2011 20,276 1,074 5.6%
2010 19,202

Source: Census Bureau Population Estimates


So seriously, the latest data show a clear slowing in the growth rate. That darn 2nd derivative.  The positive trend here is actually nothing new.  But if you wonder how that fits into the larger story that the Hispanic population in Pittsburgh is extremely small, realize that the size of that population is so low that even if the local growth rate exceeds the national growth rate by several percentage points, it still will take decades to really catch up to what is a national average. and that assumes there is no more slowing of the trend locally. 

To a large degree, the nation as a whole is so much more Hispanic than Pittsburgh that as normal migration flows continue, just the normal churn of population will increase the Hispanic population locally.  It does not really mean Pittsburgh is changing as much as the nation has changed so much more and since the region is not completely an island, a reversion to the mean is a bit inevitable. The real question is why it is not happening faster than it is.

It also does not imply that we have become a magnet for recent international immigrants.. the headline is about the Hispanic population which is not the same thing. Those two groups get conflated in Pittsburgh to a degree they just don't elsewhere.  The latest data on international immigration, which is in the same census dataset as referenced above, gives us this benchmarking of the 2013-2014 net international migration for Pittsburgh compared to other metro areas:

So Pittsburgh is decidedly last... and if you dispute that then you must also not believe the numbers above.  Both are from the same Census Bureau estimates data for 2014. Go figure.


Someone strongly suggested to me that this all is big news because the higher rate of growth in the region's Hispanic population is still a recent break in trend.. that around 2008 or so this all changed.  Turns out no. Below is the annual percentage change for Allegheny County's Hispanic population going back to 2000-2001. Throw a trendline on that data and then re-read the current headlines. The growth rate seeming generating headlines this year (and curiously never before in the past in my memory) is actually the lowest rate for any year in that period with only one exception between 2004-5. The most interesting thing in all of this is that this is a news story at all.  But again, the new data brings me back to the efforts here going back to 2001 specifically focused on bringing more of the Hispanic population to Pittsburgh.

Actually the 2007-2008 timeline is when total net migration into Pittsburgh turned positive, but that it is something else.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mr. Windle gets a haircut

Not exactly lost, but not much noticed either is the big loss of jobs in mining and logging industry sector in the latest dump of Pennsylvania jobs data.  How big a loss?  Total jobs in the mining and logging sector dropped 1,000 in May day compared to just a month prior.  Is that a big drop?  Basically the single biggest month over month loss since 1990 with the sole exception of June 1993 when the jobs count went down 1,200.  The time series of the monthly delta looks like this:

But is even June 1993 comparable to the recent downward blip?  June 1993 was the first full month of a major multi-state coal strike that would stretch through the end of the year.  The big job loss that month likely reflects a lot of those jobs as workers temporarily were on strike.  I am pretty sure the current job loss is not the result of any strike anywhere.

So of course the loss still is only a small fraction of the big run up in jobs in the same sector since 2008.  Still, if this is more than a one-off kind of month, and this rate of loss continues then there is something important going on.  What is curious is that the job loss does not really show up in any mass layoff disclosed to the state this year.

To be sure, the net job loss is across the whole industry sector which is not limited to natural gas. Coal in particular is a big part of the state's mining industry and coal firms are laying off.  Still, the lack of a mass layoff notice that correlates with the 1,000 job loss makes me think it is spread out across a larger number of smaller firms which may be the vast support sector for the shale industry. But we will be able to parse that much better in a few months, so hold that thought.  For now we just know the net job loss is pretty big in total.

What does it mean?  As always, take monthly data with a grain of salt.  If this industry job count bounces back next month, or just holds it own, then maybe it was a one time reset of jobs that may have expanded too quickly in recent years.  But if next month loses another big chunk of jobs then the question will be how far will this go and where will the job counts settle. Someone may need to do a study of what career decisions some of those workers made anticipating shale jobs long into the future.

This all comes on the state's methodological reset of the jobs impact of shale development in Pennsylvania.  Until recently, the state counted jobs, but the new methodology announced last week the number of shale jobs in Pennsylvania went from well over 200K to just about 30K instantaneously. if you ever wanted a case study in how methodology is important to measurement, something nobody ever really wants to talk about.  Everyone always just wants the number.

Maybe it is time to restart those annual economic impact reports that turned out to not be annual for very long.

At least one big potential market for natural gas took a big hit last week as well as Honda, the only company in the US to manufacture a natural gas fueled consumer auto, announced that it would cease production of its Civic GX.  There were supposed to be more and more private drivers with natural gas vehicles.  I actually believe there were more folks driving personal natgas vehicles in the city of Pittsburgh a decade or two ago compared to today, but that may be my one anecdotal observation. But I'm sure the fleet uses for the station in the Strip District continue unabated?



Friday, June 19, 2015

Jobs Über Alles

The latest jobs numbers for Pittsburgh are out and for May 2015 there is a bit of good news.  The latest jobs count for the Pittsburgh MSA is 1,191K non-farm jobs in the 7 county region. That is the the highest jobs count ever recorded for the region and begs the question when the region will go over 1.2 million jobs for the first time.  If it will happen this year, likely to be month we are now in (June) since June is almost always the peak jobs count month for Pittsburgh each year.

But when you are near the peak, even small gains are always going to create a new peak right?  What is better news is that the year over year job gains are back up to what is better number by Pittsburgh standards.  For May 2015, the net gain in non-farm jobs over May 2014 was +19,400.

That may not be the biggest rate of job gains compared to other large metro areas,but still it's the largest year over year gain in over 3 years for Pittsburgh.  For sure, it has been a long long long time since net job growth in Pittsburgh really compared well to anywhere else in the nation.  Thus the lack of in-migration and population growth of course, but still, compared to recent and distant path the nearly +20K annual gain compares well to what has been the norm here for some time. Only 5 months in the last decade have been higher. Here is what the longer term time series looks like:


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Veterans in Pittsburgh

A pretty regular question I get is about the number of veterans in Pittsburgh.  Western Pennsylvania has a lot of veterans for sure, but it is one of those statistics that is heavily, heavily impacted by our older age demographics for sure.  There was a draft in place in the United States from 1940-1946 and 1948-1972. I guess there was a draft technically in 1947, but there were no accessions as the nation drew down after the war.  That and later personnel demands of the Korean and Vietnam wars mean that older generations had much higher rates of military service than recent generations.  

But the question is usually in the context of younger veterans in Pittsburgh, and in particular those who have served since 9/11.  This all came to mind because yesterday there was some interesting data compiled by the Military Times showing the rate of unemployment for veterans in Pittsburgh is 4.0%, which is the lowest rate in this list of comparable data for large cities. Seems pretty noteworthy to me.

But what is the overall trend in the number of younger veterans residing in Pittsburgh?  There is not a master database of veterans you may be surprised to know, certainly not a list that tracks geography of residence and is available to study.  The Department of Veterans Affairs used to model county level estimates of the veterans population by period of service, but I don't find that available any longer. It may exist.  But the VA really is not going to even track you at all if you are not using a VA service and not all veterans do so early in their post-service careers.

So what data do we have?  Here is the trend in what the American Community Says about Pittsburgh's population of veterans who had periods of active service since 9/11. This is or the 7 county MSA and works out to about a net gain of +1K annually on average.

Like all other migration stats, there is no such thing as a net migrant.  For sure more than 1,000 younger veterans arrive in Pittsburgh each year, but like all types of younger folks, many leave as well.  The +1k/year net increase is actually is actually a bit low if you think Pittsburgh attracts an average number of veterans each year.  Each year between 240K and 360K servicemembers leave the military, so that is the number of new veterans with post 9/11 service each year.  The Pittsburgh region (~2.4 million population) is about 0.75% of the US population, so if we attracted a proportional number of veterans it would work out out to between 1,800 and 2,600 new post-9/11 veterans each year.  But the data above is for 5 year periods. If you extrapolate out it give you a current population of ~19K post-9/11 veterans residing in the Pittsburgh MSA.

I am conflating I know the concept of 'younger' veterans with post 9/11 service veterans.  Realize that veterans come in all ages, and even veterans with post-9/11 service can be old.  Some leave the military via retirement so work backwards.  2001 is now 14 years ago and a new military retiree in 2001 was age 40-50 at the time, which works out to 54-64 today.  But most separating servicemembers are much younger on average.