Regional Economy Still Worsening, Particularly in Manufacturing (by Harold D. Miller)

Unfortunately, the recession’s impact on Pittsburgh worsened in March; we’ve now lost 20,200 jobs in the past 12 months. Although revised figures show that the job loss in February was lower than previously reported (17,700 vs. 19,200), the March figures (still subject to revision a month from now) indicate that the big jump in job loss that occurred from January to February was neither temporary nor an aberration, but reflective of a serious weakening in the regional economy. PghJobsMar1990to2009

This is the second month in a row where we have fewer total jobs in the region than we did in the year 2000, and we now have only 8,000 more jobs than we did in 1999. In other words, we’ve lost all of the job gains we’ve made in the past decade, and we’re at risk of dropping below the levels we achieved in the late 1990s. PghVsUSGrowthMar09The fact that things got worse in March isn’t really surprising, since things got worse nationally and in most major regions of the country. The U.S. rate of job loss over 12 months increased from 3.1% to 3.6% between February and March; the rate of job loss here increased from 1.6% to 1.8%.

Interestingly, while things got worse here over the past month, things got a little better in our rust belt neighbors of Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Detroit – their rate of job loss was slightly smaller in March than in February, although the rates of job loss in Cleveland and Detroit were so high that one might argue they had nowhere to go but up. Only time will tell what this really means. ChangebySectorinPghMar09

Despite many news reports of belt-tightening in both higher education and health care, both of those sectors still had more jobs in our region in March than a year earlier, as did mining and utilities.

Perhaps the biggest area of concern for our region is manufacturing. The large jump in manufacturing job losses that occurred between January and February wasn’t a temporary thing; in fact, it got worse in March. Manufacturing job losses jumped from 5,700 in February (the loss was revised downward slightly from the 6,300 previously reported) to a loss of 7,400 jobs between March 2008 and March 2009. That loss of 1,700 additional jobs represents 2/3 of the 2,500 additional jobs we lost economy-wide between February and March. ManufJobsinBenchmarkRegionsMar09

The 7,400 manufacturing jobs we’ve lost in the past year is 1 out of every 13 manufacturing jobs (7.5%) that we had a year ago, the 9th largest loss of manufacturing jobs among our benchmark regions. Some of these job losses may just be temporary layoffs, but others are likely permanent, and the ripple effect of both the temporary and permanent layoffs could well cause further jobs losses in other sectors in the months ahead.

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