Thursday, March 09, 2006

Good News in a Bad Ranking for the Pittsburgh Region

You probably missed the fact that the Milken Institute issued its list of 2005 Best Performing Cities last week. None of the local newspapers covered the story, although it was prominently featured in newspapers in Florida (the reason for that will be apparent in a moment).

At first glance, the report looks like yet another bad-news story for Pittsburgh -- the Pittsburgh metro region ranked 141 out of the 200 largest metro regions in the country on a weighted index based on job growth, wage/salary growth, and high-tech growth.

So who are the unfortunate regions that ranked worse than Pittsburgh? Silicon Valley ranked 185 (yes, that's right, 15th from the bottom), Boston ranked 157, and Cambridge ranked 142. In other words, on this index, Pittsburgh is doing better than both Silicon Valley and Boston/Cambridge.

The Pittsburgh Region's 5-year job growth was higher than Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Cleveland, Cambridge, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, New York, St. Louis, Portland (Oregon), Dallas, Philadelphia, Denver, Kansas City, New Orleans, and many others. And we weren't far behind Atlanta and Minneapolis. Silicon Valley has fewer jobs today than it did in 1996. Boston has fewer jobs than it did in 1998. The Pittsburgh Region has more.

And the Pittsburgh Region had quality job growth -- Pittsburgh's 5-year wage & salary growth was higher than Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Portland.

That's pretty good news.

So if Pittsburgh is doing so well compared to all of these other great places, how did it end up as 141 on the list??

Most of the "Best Performing Cities" are in Florida. Most are growing jobs because they are growing population through retirement and tourism. Milken's report notes that among the top 20 best performing cities, "most have experienced a robust recovery in tourism that is driving job growth in leisure and hospitality services," "many have a growing population of retirees who are spurring growth in the health care services sector," and "each has population growth that supports employment gains in home construction and related consumer industries." The majority of jobs in any region are in population-dependent sectors -- retail, personal services, education, etc. The fact that a region is growing rapidly in terms of total jobs does not necessarily mean that it's creating high-quality jobs or the kinds of jobs that will attract and retain young people.

The one piece of bad news in the rankings is that the Pittsburgh Region is lagging the rest of Pennsylvania. Only Erie had a lower ranking than Pittsburgh. Allentown ranked 70th, Lancaster was ranked 102, Harrisburg was ranked 120, York was ranked 121, Philadelphia was ranked 128, and Scranton/Wilkes Barre ranked 130th.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our local media is out to lunch. Why don't they cover these issues? They are as complicit in our failure to produce more jobs as the politicians.

10:53 PM  

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