Population past - population future: migration and Pittsburgh
I figure I should update my graphic tracking the relative difference between the unemployment rates in Pittsburgh and the United States. Why do I care? Mostly because when it comes to economic migration within the United States, this is a pretty solid predictor of net migration rates across metro areas, or at the very least it has been for Pittsburgh. '
The PG piece used some data the Census gnomes have put out looking at migration between metropolitan areas over the period 2010-2014. That happens to be at the end of a unprecedented period when Pittsburgh maintained a streak of monthly unemployment rates below the national average. Basically for 99 continuous months, the local unemployment rate was below the national average. For 109 months the local unemployment rate did not exceed the national average (there were a few moths in there where the two rates were the same.) Few really noticed, but I do not there was any comparable period that was true for a longer period of time since metropolitan region unemployment metrics were regularly reported in the late 1940s. Think about that.
Unsurprisingly for most of those years the Pittsburgh MSA showed positive net in-migration, also an unprecedented demographic trend to be sustained for Pittsburgh since the 1940s.
Alas, it probably isn't true right now. See the trend really was broken in February 2014, and since then the local unemployment rate has been above the national average. That isn't the end of the world, but what is problematic is how far above the national average Pittsburgh's unemployment rate has been. For both October and November, Pittsburgh unemployment rate has been 1.2 percentage points above the national average. That also is unprecedented in that you have to go back to the mid 1980s (not a good period for Pittsburgh) when the local rate was so far above the national rate. As long as you have that type of differential, you will have folks finding better opportunities elsewhere and you will see working age population migration follow.
The future?? Pittsburgh's unemployment rate dropped 0.3 percentage points between October and November. That, by the way, was the biggest month over month drop in 16 years one of the biggest month over month drops in decades. So a good sign for the local economy and a sign the local job market is tightening. But the national unemployment rate dropped by the same 0.3 percentage points at the same time. As long as you see such tight labor markets across the nation, and so much tighter than here, you just can't expect there to be net migration flows like what we saw over those 109 months where Pittsburgh fared at least we well as the nation. Pittsburgh may do better than it has in the past, but there are just too many places with too many opportunities to expect Pittsburgh to pull folks given the relatively higher unemployment rate here.
For now and for the next couple years at least - remembering most data like the Philadelphia migration story today, are pretty much backward-looking due to the latency of data coming out - the story will be of population loss due to net out-migration and continuing natural population decline (deaths exceeding births) endemic to Pittsburgh since the 1990s. Lots of other local stories follow from all of this... Allegheny County population trends... city of Pittsburgh population trends and all sorts of real estate trends. So.... watch this space? Maybe,