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Pittsburgh Region Saw Flat Job Growth in 2013

Preliminary jobs numbers released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show virtually flat job growth for the Pittsburgh region in 2013, adding just 400 jobs for the year.

Pittsburgh TODAY, a nonprofit research organization housed at the University of Pittsburgh, compared the seven-county Pittsburgh region to other similar metropolitan areas across the Midwest and East Coast, and found that the Steel City fared worst in terms of job growth.

“We actually had the lowest job growth of the 15 regions,” said Doug Heuck, program director for Pittsburgh TODAY. “In fact, we were the only one who actually lost jobs in that January year over year period.”

From January 2013 to January 2014, the Pittsburgh metropolitan area saw a 0.1 percent decline in jobs, compared to a benchmark average of a 1.2 percent increase. Charlotte, N.C. and Denver led the 15-region pack with 2.9 percent job growth, and even Detroit edged up slightly with 0.1 percent growth.

Heuck said the decline in jobs in Pittsburgh was led by a 2.3 percent decline in manufacturing jobs.

“It was made up by some areas,” Heuck said. “(In the areas of) natural resources, mining, and construction we did okay, (with) somewhat tepid growth at 1.2 percent, beneath the benchmark average of 3.3 percent growth.”

Heuck said the numbers are not altogether surprising, considering how well Pittsburgh weathered the economic recession that began in 2008.

“Other areas, when times are good, really have more of a boom bust cycle, and we have more of a steady pattern,” Heuck said. “Though we might wish for more job growth than zero, or negative 0.1 percent.”

Heuck said the Pittsburgh region’s unique ability to retain jobs in the midst of a global recession has actually changed the makeup of the city, which is now skewing younger than it has in decades.

“The relatively lower unemployment rate and the ability of people to get jobs here has been one of the reasons why the demographic picture has turned around here over the last five years,” Heuck said. “It was a place where people could come and find work, especially young people.”

Heuck said, while the new jobs numbers are an important indicator of economic trends, it’s important to take them with a grain of salt.

“With the numbers being preliminary, I’m not sure that we would ring an alarm bell yet, but we want to be aware that the pace of job growth we’ve been seeing has slowed,” Heuck said.

Heuck added that January unemployment numbers, due out this week, will provide a fuller picture of the economic situation in the Pittsburgh region.

Liz Reid began working at WESA in 2013 as a general assignment reporter and weekend host. Since then, she’s worked as the Morning Edition producer, health & science reporter and as an editor.