Statistics show Pittsburgh region's workers make less against inflation

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Despite working three jobs, Jon Manning can’t seem to get ahead.

The adjunct professor at both Point Park and Duquesne universities taught without a raise for about a decade, at least at his career jobs. He makes the rest of his money on Friday and Saturday nights bartending at the Squirrel Hill Cafe. “I make more money slinging drinks than I do grading papers,” he said.

This fall will mark his 10th year at Duquesne and his ninth at Point Park. Recently he saw an increase in his pay at Duquesne, after the adjuncts voted to form a union. At Point Park, his wages have been flat.

Workers in the Pittsburgh region who feel like they are falling further behind as the recovery continues are right.

Through 2013, wages — when adjusted for inflation — fell for most people in the Pittsburgh metropolitan region, even as the number of jobs declined. That‘‍s according to figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry for employment in the fourth quarter.

In four of the seven counties that make up the metro region experienced a decline in average weekly wages, when adjusted for inflation, that ranged from 0.3 percent in Allegheny County to a 3.7 percent decline in Washington County. Armstrong and Westmoreland counties both saw 1.1 percent declines in average weekly wages.

Nationally, workers in the country’‍s largest counties saw the average weekly wage stay flat at $1,000, which in inflation adjusted dollars would equal a 1.4 percent decline.

Throughout the region, the number of utility crew and construction jobs, which tend to be better paying, were cut back while jobs in food service and hotels, which are in the lowest paying category, grew. Those trends have lead to an average weekly wage for the overall region of $864, or 14 percent below the national average.

Even southwestern Pennsylvania employees in the highest paying job category — management of companies, which includes managers, accountants and bookkeepers — saw average salaries fall by $105 even before adjusting for inflation. The comparison is based on data from the last quarter of 2012 vs. the comparable period in 2013.

Within the region, workers fared differently over the past year.

Those in Washington County saw wages fall the farthest. In a year-over-year comparison, average wages fell by $26 from December 2012 to December 2013. The picture is even worse when adjusted for inflation. In inflation adjusted dollars, the average weekly wage in Washington County fell by $39 a week, or 3.7 percent, to an average of $993 a week.

Workers in Allegheny, Armstrong, and Westmoreland counties also saw real wages decline in 2013. Only workers in Fayette and Butler counties saw their wages rise during the year.

Average wages in Fayette were up by $2 to $667 a week, representing a .03 percent increase.

Butler County did better than the rest of the region, adding 1,513 jobs and seeing the average wage rise by $38 a week or 4.2 percent in inflation adjusted dollars. 

Mark Price, a labor economist with the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, said it is hard to know how broadly shared the wage growth in Butler County was because of the way the data was collected. “Still, wage growth is a good start,” he said.

Beaver County was more of a puzzle. While the county lost 1,237 jobs, or 2.3 percent of the jobs there, the average wage of $780 at the end of 2013 was $8, or 1 percent higher in inflation adjusted dollars than in 2012. Mr. Price speculated that gains might have been driven in part by the county losing more low wage jobs, which would send the average pay level up.

“The bottom line is these data show pretty clearly that the combination of above normal unemployment rates and falling employment mean a lot of people in Pittsburgh saw their earnings grow more slowly than inflation in 2013,” he said.

When compared to other counties across the country for job growth, the Pittsburgh region did not fare well.

In a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the 335 largest counties in the country, Allegheny County ranked 260th for the rate at which it has added jobs. The report included Allegheny, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

For Mr. Manning, it all leads to the frustrating reality that, even as he works six, sometimes seven, days a week, he hasn‘‍t managed to put aside money for retirement.

Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699.


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