Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Whither the single family home (in Pittsburgh)?

Just a curious time series if you have not seen it. Take a look at the time series for building permits for single unit homes across the Pittsburgh MSA.


To be clear, this is for building permits issued only for single unit homes, not building permits overall. Still, something seemingly fell off the cliff for Pittsburgh at the end 2014, and has not come back. The lastest month here (August 2017) is showing 94 total single family homes being planned across the 2.35 million person Pittsburgh MSA. That works out to 4 per 100,000 in population.

It is a remarkably low number not just compared to Pittsburgh's past, but compared to other regions.  Without getting into a full benchmarking exercise, the 2.1 million person Cleveland MSA is showing 252 single unit building permits for the same month. That comes out to over 12 per 100,000 population. Both Pittsburgh and Cleveland are well below the national rate, which is still rebounding from the Great Recession. Nationally the 819K building permits in August work out to just over 250 per 100K population.

That's all I have. If anyone has a clear explanation for the Pittsburgh drop right at the beginning of 2015, either in the local housing market, or if there is something else going on in the data, I'd love to hear about it.


Monday, October 23, 2017

Pittsburgh Manufacturing

So last week new jobs data came out for the Pittsburgh region. As of September the region is showing 1.185 million nonfarm jobs in the metro area.  That number is up by 17,200 year over year which is not a huge amount of job growth (~1.5%), but it is actually the largest year over year increase in local jobs in over 5 years (since April 2012). So that is something.

But here is the bigger factoid.  Manufacturing jobs in Pittsburgh have been trending down no matter what else you may hear. As of September the total number of manufacturing jobs in the Pittsburgh region was 82,600.  Do the division and you get a surprising result that manufacturing jobs in Pittsburgh now account to just under 7% of all jobs.  6.97% to be overly precise. That has to be an all-time low.

The thing is I doubt manufacturing jobs in Pittsburgh have ever constituted less that 7% of all jobs going back to the time when George Washington was president. Even at the beginning of the 19th century folks commented on the production industries here and manufacturing likely made up a palpable part of the workforce anywhere near the head of the Ohio River.  In the early 1950's there was a point when 40% of all regional jobs were in manufacturing.  40%!  To drop below 7% is not only pushing us even further below the national average for manufacturing jobs in the economy, but I am not sure the trend is about to change in the near term. Headlines show some palpable layoffs coming in what remains of the local glass industry are in the pipeline already, among others.