Wednesday, November 30, 2016

When lack of data is data - Coal employment in Pennsylvania

A few months ago I threw up here (Coal dropping even faster than you think) this graphic of the rapid decline in Pennsylvania's coal industry. This was the time series of coal employment in Pennsylvania through the first quarter of this year.

The latest quarter of data is out (for Q2 of 2016).  But as is shown in the graphic below, there is no data being released.  Data is suppressed for confidentiality reasons for a couple of different reasons.  If the number of firms is small, or the concentration of employment in any one firm is so high, then the release of this aggregate data may reveal proprietary data about an individual firm.

So I can't update that graph with the latest employment data, but something must have materially changed from the previous quarter for the routine suppression to kick in. I guess a continuing, but slower decline.... maybe 3% employment loss for the quarter, but I am really interested in the trend for the number of establishments. The decline in number of establishments is being reported for Q2 and is down over 5% over the quarter. At 172 establishments that is probably the lowest count for coal mining establishments in Pennsylvania in the 'modern era'.   For the truly wonky labor analyst/historian out there this is all something new.  Never before has statewide coal mining employment (NAICS 2121) been so small or concentrated to ever require statewide payroll employment data to be suppressed. That right there tells you a lot and is a seminal - if incredibly wonky - point in economic history.