December 19 2010
Losing Ground Before the Holidays (by Harold D. Miller)
The more than 90,000 unemployed workers in the Pittsburgh Region aren’t getting much of a holiday gift from the economy this year. We actually lost private sector jobs in the region between October and November, only the sixth time in the past two decades that private sector jobs declined in November. As a result, the region has now gone over six months without making any significant headway in restoring the more than 26,000 jobs we’ve lost over the past 3 years.
Although there were 1,300 more total jobs in the region in November than in October, that was due to the 1,600 net new jobs in local school districts, one of the largest increases in government jobs from October to November in the past two decades. In contrast, there were 300 fewer private sector jobs in November than October, whereas in many previous years, the economy added between 800 and 4,000 private sector jobs in November. If it hadn’t been for the 2,500 seasonal jobs added in the retail sector (a smaller increase than the typical seasonal growth), things would have been even worse, because the small growth in most other sectors would have been inadequate to offset the loss of 5,000 jobs in construction and in the leisure and hospitality industry (which had a slightly higher loss of jobs than the typical seasonal decrease).
This makes six straight months in which the region has failed to regain any of the ground it lost during the recession. Compared to three years ago (2007), before the recession began, we had 26,100 fewer jobs in November, only 600 better than the same shortfall in May (26,700 jobs). The primary reason that the unemployment rate is lower now than it was in the spring is that fewer people are searching for work, not that unemployed workers have found jobs.
Pittsburgh is not unique in this stagnation. The U.S. as a whole had only 600,000 more jobs in November than it did in May, a long way from restoring the more than 7 million jobs it has lost since November, 2007.
There’s one bit of good news in this otherwise gloomy report, though. The biggest progress we’ve made in the past six months has been in the place we’ve most needed it – manufacturing. In November, there were 1,200 more manufacturing jobs in the Pittsburgh Region than in May, a 1.4% increase. In fact, we’ve had the 6th highest growth in manufacturing jobs among our benchmark regions between May and November. We still have 13,900 fewer manufacturing jobs than we did 3 years ago, but the fact that manufacturing has been slowly adding jobs throughout the summer and fall is very good news.