Pittsburgh area industry growth is lauded

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The Allegheny Conference on Community Development plans to announce this morning that the Pittsburgh region has had strong growth in industries with high paying jobs.

The civic/business group said that 269 economic development deals that are expected to create 8,388 jobs were announced for the region in 2012.

The Allegheny Conference and its affiliate group, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, count the regional economic development "wins" based on companies' announced intentions of hiring or relocating to the Pittsburgh region. The conference does not track business downsizing, closings or announced expansions that do not occur or fall short of their goals.

But Jim Futrell, market research vice president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, said in a press release, "last year's employment levels suggest that the job creation and retention announced in previous years has come to fruition and helped to achieve this record high for the Pittsburgh MSA, which has kept pace with employment growth in benchmark cities."

He added that the economic development announcements of the past years in business and financial services, energy, healthcare, information technology and manufacturing correlated to strong job growth in those industry sectors.

The conference, citing a report from the Brookings Institution that said the region was "fully recovered from the recession," called Pittsburgh a top-performing region.

The Brookings Institution report focused on the gross metropolitan product and the number of jobs recovered, not on population growth or unemployment levels. The Brookings Institution also looked at pre-recession economic growth rates -- which were lower for Pittsburgh than in much of the country -- and to which Pittsburgh has returned.

While the Allegheny Conference covers a 10-county region, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and the state's Department of Labor and Industry define the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area as the immediate seven counties around Pittsburgh: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland.

According to the state Department of Labor and Industry, the Pittsburgh region hit a pre-recession peak of 1,151,800 jobs in May 2008 before it started losing jobs with the rest of the country during the recession. The region has since recovered the lost jobs and added 10,300 more to hit 1,162,100 jobs as of February, the latest data available.

Another way to look at those statistics, however, is to focus on the reports from household data, which is used to calculate the unemployment rate, rather than business data. A survey of households in the Pittsburgh region showed that unemployment hit its lowest levels in the first five months of 2007 before the official recession hit the nation. In March 2007, there were 49,900 people who were unemployed and the unemployment rate was 4.2 percent.

Using that measure, the region is still recovering from the worst of the recession in March 2010 when the unemployment rate was 8.2 percent and 99,500 people were unemployed. In January, there were 95,200 people who are jobless and the unemployment rate was 7.5 percent.

Part of the disparity between the number of jobs gained and the number of people who are unemployed is that the labor force in the region has grown by 66,200 in the last three years, outpacing job growth.

Correction, posted April 2, 2013: In an earlier version of this story, the most recent month for the unemployment data was misstated.

businessnews

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


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