In what can only be viewed as deflating news, the Pittsburgh region saw a decrease in job growth in 2013, according to the latest data released Tuesday in a report from PittsburghTODAY--a project affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh that compiles, reviews and analyzes data to generate economic and other indicators of relevance to the region.
Year-over-year, from January 2013 to 2014, the seven-county Pittsburgh region experienced 1,100 job losses, for a .1 percent decline in employment. The disappointing figure was well below the "Benchmark" regions' average increase in employment of 1.2 percent for the 14 other similar-sized cities that comprise the report. The last-place finish is nothing short of demoralizing for Pittsburgh residents currently seeking work.
The region's job losses were fueled by the manufacturing sector, which reported a 2.3 percent drop in employment. Other sectors in the red locally last year were transportation and utilities, which declined by 1.2 percent; information (-1.1 percent); and education and health services (-.7 percent)--marking the largest decline among the 15 Benchmark regions.
The drop in education and health services perhaps stands out as the most concerning figure for Pittsburghers seeking work. The "Eds and Meds" sector has long been a bulwark of the local economy in Pittsburgh, not to mention a source of civic pride.
Although the new jobs numbers for the region may be troubling, they largely reflect a reality that many in the area already came to terms with some time ago: Basically, although Pittsburgh dodged the devastating scale of job losses that other regions experienced due to The Great Recession, it also was destined for middling success when it came to developing new jobs at robust levels.
Not all news is gloomy on the local jobs front, though. Not surprisingly--given the proliferation of "fracking" for natural gas and coal mining--the natural resources, mining and construction sector saw an increase in jobs of 1.2 percent. Also experiencing gains were financial services (up 1 percent) and the leisure and hospitality sector (up 1 percent).
But sadly, the news from the national data gave little reason for celebration for job seekers. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported most recently, the national unemployment rate ticked up to 6.7 percent, a slight rise from the five-year low of 6.6 percent notched in January. However, the national labor force continued to shrink to a level not seen in more than 30 years--the sobering indicator of an inability to find work for far too many.
Perhaps most concerning are the figures on the long-term unemployed--those out of work for 27 weeks or more. That number increased by 203,000 in February to 3.8 million, with those individuals accounting for a massive 37-percent share of the unemployed. And given the decidedly tougher task of finding work when unemployed for a significant length of time, this realization does not augur well for the innumerable long-term jobless who face continued uncertainty in the yet-unsteady job market.