The region's 21st-century economy has often been referred to as one where manufacturing has been displaced by the "eds and meds" sector, but there remain pockets where local residents still lean heavily on the more traditional means of employment.
In nine Allegheny County municipalities, more than twice as many residents are employed in manufacturing as is the case in the county overall, according to new census data. Many of the communities are in the Route 28/Allegheny Valley corridor, where many light manufacturing firms operate -- some of them growing and thriving.
The occupational information was just one nugget in a bounty of new American Community Survey data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The data are based on a survey of the national population over a five-year span, from 2007-11, with the government deeming the sample size sufficient to release estimates for wide-ranging characteristics of every municipality.
While Allegheny County and the surrounding region once served as a manufacturing center for the nation, only 8.3 percent of the county's workforce was employed in manufacturing in the modern era, the ACS data said. That was down from 9 percent in the 2000 census and was less than the 10.8 percent for the nation as a whole.
Meanwhile, the share of the county's workforce employed in the largest occupational category, "Educational services, health care and social assistance," grew from 24.4 percent in 2000 to an estimated 28.1 percent in 2007-11.
The share of Pittsburgh's workers involved in such eds-and-meds jobs is even higher, at 34 percent, which makes sense considering the number of schools and medical institutions in the city. But some suburbs rank even higher, especially just east of Pittsburgh.
Forest Hills, Wilkinsburg, East Pittsburgh, North Braddock and Braddock Hills are among the places where people more commonly make their living in the education/health care/social services fields than is the case in Pittsburgh, and nearby Swissvale is not far behind.
By contrast, to the northeast, Fawn, Springdale Township, Frazer, Harrison and Tarentum rank among the top 10 municipalities in Allegheny County in terms of the proportion of the workforce engaged in manufacturing -- all of them 16 percent or higher.
Interestingly, some of the communities where the population is least involved in manufacturing are those where it was the biggest employer a few decades ago. That includes Braddock, where just 2.2 percent of the workforce is tied to manufacturing, and Homestead, at just 4.4 percent. In Pittsburgh, the percentage is 5.6 percent, and in Munhall, it's 5.9 percent.
Specialty manufacturers throughout the Allegheny Valley, such as Oberg Industries in Freeport, have fared better in recent decades than the heavy manufacturers that once predominated in the Mon and Beaver valleys.
"Steelmaking was dark and dirty, but we have a laboratory environment, air-conditioned, where everything is clean. It has to be," Oberg spokesman David Getty said of the maker of high-precision products for the medical and aerospace industries. Oberg employs more than 500 people in the local area.
"You see new investment in that direction all the way through to Armstrong County," Laura Fisher, senior vice president for special projects at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, said of the Route 28 corridor.
American Community Survey data on wide-ranging topics covering every community can be accessed at http://factfinder2.census.gov.
Gary Rotstein: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1255.