Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pittsburgh Region is #1 in the Nation in Job Growth in April

The Pittsburgh Region just achieved a new #1 national ranking: it had the largest percentage growth in private sector jobs of any large region in the country in April. The region added 17,800 total jobs, including 16,700 jobs in the private sector, between March and April. That’s a 1.6% increase, higher than any of the largest 40 regions in the country, higher than the state as a whole, and nearly twice as high as the nation.

Seasonal hiring in the spring means that jobs always increase from March to April; even in the midst of last year’s recession, there were more jobs in the Pittsburgh Region and the U.S. in April than in March. What is significant this year was how big the March-April increase was –more jobs were added in the Pittsburgh Region in April, both in absolute and percentage terms, than in any April in the past 15 years. Seasonal changes alone would have resulted in over 7,000 fewer jobs than we actually had.

Where did these jobs come from? The leading job creator by far was the construction industry, which had 5,600 more workers in April than in March. Construction jobs typically increase in the spring, but that has not been a foregone conclusion by any means this year. What is remarkable is that construction jobs increased here by 12% in April, a bigger increase than any region where construction jobs are measured separately, and triple the growth rate nationally in construction. Part of this is likely due to stimulus spending, but some of it is also likely due to a housing market that didn’t crash here the way it did in most other regions.

The second biggest job creator was the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 4,300 jobs in April. This, however, was just a normal seasonal change – the leisure and hospitality sector adds about 4,000 jobs every April.

The third biggest contributor was professional and business services, which added 3,700 jobs in April. This was an above average increase in this sector, but most of the increase came from the “administrative and support services” subsector, which includes a wide range of jobs, from telemarketing to janitorial services and landscaping to temporary employment. Detailed data aren’t available for Pittsburgh, but national data suggest that the biggest sources of hiring have been in building-related services such as janitorial and landscaping services.

The primary explanation for our unusually high growth compared to other regions was simply that almost every economic sector in the region added jobs. Only two major sectors lost jobs in March – financial services and transportation and warehousing.

Even our manufacturing sector added 100 jobs, the second month in nearly two years that it has added, instead of cutting, jobs. Compared to other regions, our manufacturing performance was in the middle; 19 of the top 40 regions had bigger percentage increases in manufacturing jobs than we did, but 16 regions lost manufacturing jobs between March and April.

Does the large growth in April mean the region is finally on its way out of the recession? It’s still too early to say for sure, but April represented the first time in two years that the region has seen two consecutive months of job growth above seasonal norms. Two months does not make much of a trend, but it’s certainly better than we’ve seen so far.

However, it’s important to recognize that the jobs created in April, while large in historical terms and large relative to other regions, added back only a small portion of the jobs that were lost during the recession. The Pittsburgh Region still has 32,500 fewer jobs than it did two years ago, and 7,000 fewer jobs than it did over a decade ago in 1999. We’ll need many more Aprils before every worker who lost their job over the past two years can find stable employment here again.


Blogger cwolicki said...

Actually, we need more than a lot more "Aprils." We need innovative thinking, investment, and a commitment by government to put the infrastructure in place to make this area a place where workers and owners see opportunity. And I'm not just talking about union workers, but technology developers who find the talent here they need to grow companies and expand. We need more Fore Systems and Medrads and Ansys-type firms.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Harold D. Miller said...

Absolutely right. For a partial prescription on what's needed, see:

12:07 PM  

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