Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Roboburgh Redux

Long time, eh?   Well, something was eventually going to get me to post here again.  This caught my attention and it is way too much to fit into 140 characters.

The latest data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) is out with data for the 4th quarter of 2016.  So a long time ago it may seem, but for detailed industry level data you have to wait and live with the lag. Here is just one quick factoid that deserves further attention. Below is the employment trend for a very specialized industry: Scientific Research and Development Services (NAICS 5417).



(if you do not see the interactive graphic above, please let me know in the comments.)

Notice anything? The latest quarter there has a big jump and has reached a new peak going back at least a couple decades, at least as far as we have been using NAICS industry classifications. The employment gain is +6.8% over the quarter, and +14% over the year; both solid gains in a region where overall employment change has been pretty flat. The recent trend in this specialized industry has been upward, and recent quarters have all been higher than in the past, but the gains appear to not only be continuing, but accelerating with the latest data.

Lots to unpack in that, and most will have to wait for later. But a fundamental issue in Pittsburgh has long been that the competitive advantage local universities demonstrated in attracting research funding has not always found similar success in private sector commercial enterprises. Most employment in advanced technology and research, if it occurred at universities, usually showed up in education or health related industries. This recent jump in NAICS industry 5417 employment should reflect private sector employment outside of the institutions of higher education.

Now I don't believe the private sector research sector in larger today in Pittsburgh than it was at all points in the past.  When the Westinghouse R&D operation was at its peak, with Gulf Labs going strong and a range of other industrial research operations all together gave Pittsburgh a real concentration in research employment. Most of that employment would have shown up in the respective industries that each lab supported, so not necessarily in this specialized industry, or whatever its SIC-classified industry was similar. Still, many of those big research operations have all been gone for decades and Pittsburgh's technology-based economic restructuring is in a new phase.

So yes,  we have robots... or more accurately we design robots. The Wall Street Journal may have jumped the gun when its writers described Pittsburgh as Roboburgh back in 1997, at least when it came to jobs and output outside of the laboratory.  But maybe we have crossed the Rubicon?

2 Comments:

Anonymous MH said...

Robots? That's mostly me, still working two jobs.

Friday, September 08, 2017 9:37:00 AM  
Blogger عبده العمراوى said...

شركة مكافحة حشرات بالرياض
شركة تنظيف منازل بالقطيف

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 8:40:00 AM  

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