In the Doldrums (by Harold D. Miller)

No news is bad news when you’re hoping for a strong recovery from the recession, and there was essentially no news in the job growth data for Pittsburgh in October. At first glance, the news might appear good, because there were 5,000 more jobs in the region in October compared to September. But jobs always increase from September to October due to seasonal factors, and this year’s September-to-October growth was actually somewhat weak compared to prior years. Indeed, last year, in the depths of the recession, 6,200 jobs were added in the region in October, 20% more than this year.

TrendinNonFarmJobsPgh2007and2010 In fact, throughout the summer of 2010, jobs in the Pittsburgh Region have been growing and declining in a fairly typical seasonal fashion, with no net growth to restore what we lost during the recession. Compared to three years ago (2007), before the recession began, we had 26,500 fewer jobs in October, almost exactly the same shortfall we had in May (26,700 jobs). We need to do better than that – a lot better – if we’re going to help the 90,000 individuals in the region who are still unemployed get back to a more normal life.

TrendinNonFarmJobsPgh1999and2010 The challenge we face is even more starkly demonstrated by comparing job counts today to job counts over a decade ago. In October 2010, we had over 6,000 fewer jobs than in October 1999, and that shortfall has actually gotten worse, rather than better, over the course of 2010.

JobsLostbyIndustryPghRegion2007-2010 Over half of the jobs we’ve lost over the past three years have been in manufacturing. That’s a bigger share than any of our benchmark regions, where only a third or fewer of the jobs losses were in manufacturing.

ShareofJobsLostinManufacturingBenchmarkRegions This means that even if our other economic sectors begin growing at above-average rates, it will be years before we can return to pre-recession job levels if we don’t find a way to restore many of the 14,100 manufacturing jobs we’ve lost since October 2007. Moreover, job losses in manufacturing have a disproportionate impact on our economy because they are some of the highest-paid jobs in the region. Consequently, supporting the manufacturing sector needs to be a top priority for the new Administration in Harrisburg as well as for local leaders.


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