Friday, April 20, 2007

Are People Fleeing the Pittsburgh Region?

As most people know by now, recent Census estimates show that the Pittsburgh Region lost more population between 2000 and 2006 than any region except New Orleans.

Are people fleeing the region? Do we need to do more to attract new residents?

The answers are no, and yes.

Although the data show that the Pittsburgh Region had net domestic outmigration over the past 6 years, we’re not alone. In fact, the majority of the top 40 metro regions in the country had more U.S. citizens move out than move in during that period. Places like Silicon Valley, San Diego, and Boston had higher rates of domestic outmigration than Pittsburgh did (the outmigration rate in Silicon Valley was 6 times as high as in Pittsburgh).

So how did the Pittsburgh Region end up with the second highest population loss? Three reasons: a lower birth rate, a higher death rate, and a lower rate of international immigration than most other regions.

Pittsburgh was the only major region in the country over the past six years where more people died than were born. There’s a simple reason for that – in 2000, we had the second highest proportion of people over 65 and the lowest percentage of people ages 20-34 of any of the top 40 regions. That, in turn, is largely due to the outmigration of young people that occurred 25 years ago. When so many young people left here in the 1980s following the collapse of the steel industry, they took their children with them.

It’s less easy to explain why we rank next-to-last in the rate of international immigration. However, it’s worth noting that the Census didn’t actually measure where international immigrants located between 2000 and 2006, it simply assumed that they located in the same places where new immigrants located between 1995 and 2000. So even if the Pittsburgh Region had become dramatically more attractive for international immigration after 2000, we wouldn’t see it reflected in the population estimates until after the next Census.

Although we’re not experiencing a massive exodus from the region, we don’t have significant in-migration, either. While we lost 2% of our population due to domestic outmigration over the past six years, Charlotte’s population grew by over 10%, Indianapolis grew by 2.9%, and Portland (Oregon) grew by 3.4% due to domestic migration alone. If the Pittsburgh Region had merely matched the domestic migration rate in Indianapolis or Portland, our total population would have grown, rather than declined.

The Pittsburgh Region has a wealth of assets to attract new residents –affordable housing, tremendous cultural and sports attractions, and great outdoor recreation.

What we don’t have is job growth.

Over the past three years, our region ranked 37th out of the top 40 regions in net job creation, behind only New Orleans, Cleveland, and Detroit. We have fewer jobs today than we did six years ago.

The slow job growth is partly due to slow population growth, since some of the largest sectors of any economy are retail and personal services. But regardless, 3,400 net new jobs in three years is not something that will easily attract job seekers to our region. It’s no wonder that our region ranked 57th out of 66 markets in Bizjournals’ recent list of hot metros for young adult jobseekers.

What can we do to accelerate job growth?

·Improve the state’s business climate. It’s hard to attract and retain businesses when you have the worst corporate net income tax in the country.

·Invest in entrepreneurs. Startup businesses can play a critical role in attracting and retaining young talent in the region.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is very frustrating that Pittsburgh cannot get its economy moving. I would love to move back, but the job market is just so anemic, I'm very leary about giving up a good job in Tampa. Tampa is not an interesting city, but it has jobs. If only Pittsburgh had population growth and increasing employment. I really fault the city leaders for making the buisness environment so pathetic. Are they all so tied to the unions, special interests and party lobbyists that make it lucrative for them but no one else? Apparently so.

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’ve been hearing about the aging scenario for years, but especially since 1999 when we first moved back to Pittsburgh from our native New York. Then I was the most enthusiastic transplant you ever saw, extolling the virtues of my “second home” to all and sundry. We lived in Squirrel Hill, had little kids and the close proximity to the zoo, the Phipps, the Science Center etc was wonderful. We owned our own home and were determined to stay in Pittsburgh and make a go of it.

Then 2004 came and I was about to graduate with a dual law degree and Master in Public Health from the University of Pittsburgh. I had an impressive resume, I networked endlessly, for months before graduation. Yet in the end, the only job offer I received was back in New York, where a native Pittsburgher had settled 30 years earlier and literally created a position for me.

Thus, we had to sell our beautiful and unique home in the city, move all our children including our autistic son from their hometown and settle back in NY. Not that there aren’t advantages to living closer to relatives etc, but we were essentially settled in Pittsburgh and wanted to stay.

Last year I attended an alumni dinner where I heard the usual moaning about the aging population etc – an old story, pun intended. I got out my trusty soapbox and told these folks - here they were professors and administrators at a top rated graduate school – they had the power to change this. They could create programs to secure at least a handful of graduates to the Pittsburgh area with decent paying jobs, they could work with local industry and organizations, etc. These are things I would have worked on had I stayed, but alas, they looked at me with blank stares.

Unfortunately, a vicious circle has evolved where the lack of young people means less innovation and less innovation either fails to attract young people or outright discourages them from settling in Pittsburgh. By May of 2006 we sold our house in Pittsburgh and the city lost two wage earners in their 30s and five children ages 10 years to 12 months.

Now I’m in New York, where so much opportunity abounds it borders on the ridiculous. I was recruited to one position, was unhappy and left and have received so many calls from recruiters I turn half of them away. Sometimes for the heck of it I apply to something on the UPMC website and never hear a thing.

It’s a shame, because never have I seen a city have so much opportunity and squander it all. You can multiply me by many other young people. My son has a special ed teacher here in NY that has been trying to get back to Pittsburgh for two years and can’t find a job. I know of a babysitter who tried for a year to secure an occupational therapist job in the Pittsburgh area and finally had to settle in Ohio. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh is reaping what it has sown.

11:03 AM  

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