Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bad Economic News for the Holiday

Unfortunately, the latest regional job numbers released just before the start of the Memorial Day Weekend aren't anything to celebrate. The Pittsburgh Region lost nearly 28,000 jobs between April 2008 and April 2009 (1 out of every 40 jobs in the region). The most depressing news is that the total number of jobs in the region has now fallen below 1999 levels for the first time since 2003; in other words, all of the job gains the region has made in the past decade have been lost.

The rate of job loss here is still lower than the U.S. as a whole and lower than most major regions; we had the 10th lowest rate of job loss among the top 40 regions. However, our rate of job loss increased significantly in April; if that keeps up, we will stop looking so good relative to other regions.

In particular, one of the reasons our economy had been doing well relative to others was that we had been losing manufacturing jobs at a much lower rate. Unfortunately, that is no longer true; in April, our rate of manufacturing job loss was higher than 23 of the top 40 regions.

Our health care and higher education sectors continue to be the only significant net job generators. In addition to manufacturing, our region is being hurt by large job losses in the leisure and hospitality sector relative to other regions (particularly among arts and entertainment organizations) and large job losses in professional and business services and construction (although those losses are still lower in percentage terms than most regions).

Since the U.S. as a whole has now been losing jobs for a full year, we're lucky that we've only been losing jobs for seven months and at much lower rates. But since the U.S. is continuing to lose jobs, it seems likely that things will get worse here before they get better.


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