Economy & Business

90.5 WESA explores the regional economy, as well as covering the issues that ordinary Pittsburghers face in their working lives.

Keith Srakocic / AP

The second full month of legal sports betting in Pennsylvania saw gamblers double the amount they wagered.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said gamblers bet $32 million in January at five casinos and one off-track betting parlor where it approved sports betting.

SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia led the way with $10.8 million in bets, trailed closely by Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh with $9.5 million in bets. The casinos made $2.6 million, while $940,000 went to taxes.

Kevin C. Brown / 90.5 WESA

John Spellman is all about customer service. As the owner and operator of The Shady Dog, a lunch cart in Pittsburgh’s East End, Spellman says he’s learned a lot about who people are and how they operate. Perhaps most tangibly, Spellman has arranged his schedule to sidestep the Monday blues.

U.S. Steel Credits Trump Tariffs For Reopening Of Manufacturing Facility

Feb 12, 2019
Gene J. Puskar / AP

U.S. Steel Corp. will restart construction on an idled manufacturing facility in Alabama, and it gave some of the credit to President Donald Trump's trade policies in an announcement Monday.

Ariel Worthy / 90.5 WESA

Natalia Rudiak still remembers driving down Route 51 on a day in 2012 when she saw a billboard of her face being put up. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania State Police seized 414 illegal gaming machines in southwestern Pennsylvania in 2018.

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A long-standing “gay-owned, gay-operated, and gay proud” nightclub in the Strip District is closing its doors this weekend, after one more farewell party. For seven years, Cruze Bar has been a popular gathering spot for the city’s younger set of LGBTQ-identifying adults. Did development push the party spot out of the neighborhood? And what will its departure mean for other queer spaces?

Mick Stinelli / 90.5 WESA

Century III mall was shut down Wednesday by West Mifflin. The borough deemed it unsafe and uninhabitable because the mall’s sprinkler system is shut down due to a pipe break.

Matt Rourke / AP

A new report suggests policy makers should create regulations around artificial intelligence to protect workers in the future. But researchers say not to worry – artificial intelligence isn't going to cause massive job displacement in the next few decades.

"As somebody who has studied workers and their welfare for many years, this is the last thing I worry about in thinking about what the threats are to American workers," said Ruth Milkman, professor of sociology at the City University of New York, who chaired the report's advisory panel. 

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Furloughed government workers are heading back to work Monday after President Trump signed a temporary end to the partial federal government shutdown. The repercussions, though, are still being felt throughout the community. With the threat of another potential shutdown looming, local organizations are preparing for the worst.  

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate stayed the same in December, at close to a two-decade low, although payrolls still jumped to a new record high.

The state Department of Labor and Industry said Friday that Pennsylvania's unemployment rate was 4.2 percent last month.

The national rate is 3.9 percent.

A survey of households found Pennsylvania's civilian labor force grew by 21,000. Employment rose by 16,000 to a new record of nearly 6.2 million, while unemployment also rose by 5,000 to 274,000.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania's commercial casinos reached another record high in revenue in 2018.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said revenue at the state's 12 casinos rose by almost $22 million, or almost 1 percent, over 2017 to climb higher above $3.2 billion.

Andrew Harnick / AP

Republican changes to the 2018 tax code moved the target for Americans hoping to itemize charitable donations. The higher threshold—now $12,000 for single filers, up from $6,000 in years prior—could result in larger but less frequent donations for higher-income donors, or fewer donations altogether. 

Small Bills And A Good Accountant

Jan 16, 2019
Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Note to readers: this story features an exotic dancer.

Tax time can be a headache for freelancers and independent contractors in the gig economy. If they haven’t kept track of income throughout the year, it can be daunting to calculate what they made and what they owe. Iris works as a stripper (we aren’t using her real name because she has concerns for her safety). Cash makes up the majority of her income, but she jots down what she makes each night to keep an eye on it. “I have a wonderful accountant and she handles a lot of that stuff for me,” says Iris.

Markus Schreiber / AP

Pharmaceutical giant Bayer Corporation says it plans to close its administrative offices in Pittsburgh, affecting about 600 workers. 


Small business owners need help to grow, but often the people who could help them most aren't accessible, or don't know someone is looking.

Doris Carson Williams, president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania, says black-owned businesses employ thousands of workers in the region, but Pennsylvania's business climate still scores poorly. She joined The Confluence to talk about the chamber's history, membership and goals for 2019.

Matt Rourke / AP

Dancing tractors, farming drones and story time with Miss Pennsylvania are among the attractions that will draw hundreds of thousands to the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show this month.

The event begins Saturday and runs through Jan. 12 at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.

This year's theme is "Inspiring Pennsylvania's Story," which will be reflected in a butter sculpture that will be unveiled Thursday morning.

Legal Marijuana Industry Had Banner Year In 2018

Dec 27, 2018
Ted S. Warren / AP

 The last year was a 12-month champagne toast for the legal marijuana industry as the global market exploded and cannabis pushed its way further into the financial and cultural mainstream.

Kevin C. Brown / WESA

Photographers know that good shots rarely happen by accident. It takes knowledge, planning, and creativity. Getting the perfect photo with Santa is no different. 

Congress Has Legalized Hemp. What The Future Might Hold

Dec 24, 2018
Gillian Flaccus / AP

The federal government is poised to quit counting hemp, marijuana's sober and versatile cousin, among the most dangerous class of substances.

Gig Work

Dec 20, 2018
Kevin C. Brown / 90.5 WESA

Note to readers: this story features an exotic dancer and details of Santa’s life when he’s off-the-clock.

A lot of ink has been spilled describing the the “gig economy.” This sector – comprised of quasi-independent and sometimes short-term jobs – has been made famous by the rise of Uber and other tech-enabled businesses. 

Keith Srakocic / AP

Two more casinos in Pennsylvania have started up with sports betting.

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Apple will build a $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas, break ground on smaller locations in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, California, and over the next three years will expand in Pittsburgh, New York and Colorado.

A New Coal Mine Is Opening In Pennsylvania. Is Trump To Thank?

Dec 12, 2018
Matt Smith / Keystone Crossroads

Thom Maziekas' house in Mahanoy City faces a row of empty lots. Rowhomes once stood there, but they suffered the fate of many buildings in this once-booming coal town in northeastern Pennsylvania: a fire, then rubble, now blight.



Philadelphia fashion week, demand at Larrimor’s and a spot on Facebook’s small business council might not have been where Nisha Blackwell thought her sewing career would take her. According to the Homewood-based, bowtie business owner, she wasn’t sure how to turn on her machine a little more than four years ago.

Mick Stinelli / 90.5 WESA

Century III Mall did not go up for the planned sheriff’s sale on Monday, according to Kevin Kraus, chief deputy at the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office.

Mick Stinelli / 90.5 WESA

It's empty, cavernous and quiet. A pristine shopping center just 30 years ago, the Century III Mall in West Mifflin now lists just 14 stores on its website. But among its vast swath of empty storefronts is also a thriving comics store.

Ron Schwane / AP Photo

The assembly plant recently targeted by General Motors in Ohio's Mahoning Valley served as an economic lifeline for thousands of locals over the years. The announcement Tuesday effectively closes the Lordstown plant and six others next year as part of a larger campaign to restructure operations. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA


The region’s Amazon proposal was a collaborative learning experience for Pittsburgh leaders, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said this week, but according to Amazon, the region's talent pool isn't deep enough and the city lacks appropriate infrastructure.

Care Work

Nov 28, 2018
Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Keeping young children safe and curious, caring for aging parents or counseling a friend suffering from heartbreak are not easy tasks. Done off-the-clock, we don’t not always think of these things as work. In this episode of 90.5 WESA’s series, Still Working, we follow four people for whom caring is part of the job description.

Short: 'Like Getting Punched In The Face'

Nov 28, 2018
Kevin C. Brown / 90.5 WESA

A rainy day combined with a moss-covered tree, and Bryan McQuaid ended up with a broken bone in his shoulder. While trimming trees for an electric utility, the spikes on his shoes slipped. McQuaid’s safety harness caught him, but swung him hard into a tree.