In the first decade of this century, the Pittsburgh region lost jobs in its central business district while gaining jobs more than 10 miles outside of the city core: a trend that, if it continues, could cause transportation problems as workers have an increasingly hard time reaching employers.
Pittsburgh is hardly alone in experiencing what The Brookings Institution, in a report issued today, calls "job sprawl."
Researchers at Brookings in Washington, D.C., looked at the 100 largest metropolitan areas and compared where the jobs were located in 2000 and where they were in 2010. The researchers found the share of jobs located in or near central business districts declined in all but nine of those 100 regions over the decade.
The trend shifting jobs away from core business districts to outer suburbs would have been more pronounced if the recession had not hit the key areas that had been growing: construction, manufacturing and retail.
By contrast, health care and social assistance -- two job categories that tend to be clustered in the cities -- added employees during the Great Recession, so the concentration of jobs shifted slightly back.
"It's not just about the number of jobs you have -- it does matter where they are located," said Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Institute.
As of 2010, Pittsburgh had a higher percentage of jobs (25.2 percent) concentrated within 3 miles of the Downtown area than the average of 22.9 percent in the 100 cities studied. The area within 3 miles of the central business district includes Oakland, Bloomfield and Lawrenceville and parts of Shadyside and Squirrel Hill, which all have a good share of jobs in healthcare and education.
That 3-mile ring, drawn from the edges of Downtown, also includes the North Side almost to the McKnight Road exit of the Parkway North, Green Tree to the south, up Route 28 to Millvale and west just past the McKees Rocks Bridge.
The region also has an above average share of jobs located more than 10 miles out of Downtown, with 45.2 percent of the region's jobs between 10 and 35 miles away. Other regions average 43.1 percent of jobs that far away from the central business district.
Other regions have higher percentages of jobs in that middle ring found 3 to 10 miles from the city center. For Pittsburgh, 29.5 percent of jobs are in the 3- to 10-mile ring -- elsewhere it is 34.1 percent.
Pittsburgh lost 23,255 jobs over the course of the decade, with the largest share of those jobs, 15,206, lost within three miles of Downtown and 8,307 jobs lost in the inner ring of 3 to 10 miles from Downtown.
The outer ring of 10 to 35 miles from Downtown, added 257 jobs over the decade.
The outer rim starts at the airport to the west, the Wexford exit of the Parkway North, Springdale along the Allegheny River, past Monroeville to the east and Finleyville to the south.
Having jobs away from the central business district is not, by itself, a problem, Ms. Kneebone said.
"Not all jobs belong Downtown," she said. "You don't want your manufacturing plants in the heart of Downtown."
But, she said, the sprawl of jobs needs to be managed with regional planning so that the centers of growth have access to transportation and housing.
In the Pittsburgh region, mass transit is already a problem. A previous study by Brookings ranked Pittsburgh's transit 60th of the top 100 metropolitan areas and found that only 23 percent of the jobs in the region could be reached by workers within 90 minutes.
Ann Belser: email@example.com or 412-263-1699.