Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Watching from the Upper Deck of the Titanic

Sad to say, the Pittsburgh Region has now joined the U.S. as a whole and most regions of the country in seeing a decline in total jobs. Our region had 7,100 fewer jobs in December than a year earlier. We first crossed into negative territory in November, and federal and state revisions in the jobs data now indicate that the losses were bigger than we first thought -- 1,600 jobs, rather than 500.

We still have some sectors that are growing: health care, higher education, professional and business services, mining, and construction all still had more jobs in December than they did a year earlier, which is good news. But the much higher growth in professional and business services that had been driving the economy earlier in the year has started to fade -- although there are still 1,100 more professional and business services jobs in the region than a year ago, we had over 3,000 more a few months ago.

All other sectors have fewer jobs than a year earlier. Three sectors are experiencing significant losses -- the region has lost 4,500 jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry, 3,600 jobs in retail, and 2,200 manufacturing jobs over the past year. Those large losses more than offset the growth in health care, higher ed, and business services, resulting in a net loss of jobs overall.

Although our economy is now starting to go underwater, it's still doing significantly better than most parts of the country. 32 of the top 40 regions now have fewer jobs than a year earlier, and our rate of job loss was the third smallest among those 32. Although it's little consolation to the thousands of Pittsburgh workers who've lost their jobs, tens of thousands have lost work in places like Detroit, Phoenix, and Atlanta, and there are over one hundred thousand fewer jobs in the New York region now than a year ago.

While our accelerating losses in manufacturing are a particular concern, 39 of the top 40 regions have lost manufacturing jobs (Houston is the only exception) and our rate of loss is the 10th smallest among those 39. Although we've lost 2,200 manufacturing jobs, Cleveland has lost 11,000 and Detroit has lost almost 29,000.

We can't expect to stay completely dry when the entire U.S. economy is sinking farther and farther underwater. But there are things we can do to keep our region from sinking too deeply. For example, the sector of our economy that's faring the worst right now is leisure and hospitality -- we've had the second largest percentage loss of jobs there of any of the top 40 regions -- so patronizing arts and cultural events and restaurants can help boost their revenues and avoid further reductions. And wherever there's a choice, buying local products and using local vendors helps keep money circulating in our region rather than somewhere else, supporting the jobs in our economy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow... it appears Charlotte employment growth is declining at an extremely dramatic rate. Perhaps Wachovia's demise is starting to take its toll there

What makes Pittsburgh look even better... despite job losses... is that most of the MSAs still adding jobs are rather unusual cases... 4 Texas metros... a New Orleans still recovering from losing a huge chunk of jobs and population due to Katrina... the seat of federal government (DC)... and a local economy dominated by the military (Virginia Beach)

10:48 AM  

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