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90.5 WESA's collection of stories on race, diversity, LGBT, gender and age-related stories.

Pittsburgh Region’s Workforce Least Diverse Among Similar Regions

Deanna Garcia
90.5 WESA

Minority workers hold 11 percent of the jobs in the greater Pittsburgh area, compared with about 25 percent of the jobs in 15 comparable regions. That’s according to “Behind the Times: The Limited Role of Minorities in the Greater Pittsburgh Workforce,” a report released by a group of community organizations. In addition to a lower-than-average number of black, Hispanic and Asian workers, the jobs they do have point to another trend.

“There’s a high concentration of minority workers in low wage industries,” said Douglas Heuck with PittsburghTODAY, “and then the opposite – a very small concentration in high-wage industries.”

The Pittsburgh region’s demographics overall differed from other benchmark regions with 86.4 percent of the population being white. Heuck called the area “unusually white” compared to others. But, U.S. Census Bureau projections show that over the coming decades, the white population will shrink nationwide.

“So for us to have a workforce over-represented in segments of the population that will be shrinking shows, I think, an urgent need to build the diversity,” said James Futrell with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

Economic Impact

The lack of workforce diversity has a larger economic impact, according to the report. A lack of diversity can threaten the supply of workers ready to fill current and future job openings and makes it difficult to attract talent of all races and ethnicities to the region.

Even within the minority groups there are disparities. Hispanic and Asian workers had higher-than-average wages compared to counterparts in other regions while African American workers in Pittsburgh had lower wages compared to their counterparts.

Diversity Growing but Slowly

According to the report, the share of the labor force claimed by minority workers in the region has risen two percent since 2002, which is the average rate of growth across the 15 benchmark regions. But, because the region has far fewer minorities than other regions, that growth is not enough to keep pace with other areas. 

“I’m hopeful that this report, simply by showing some basic, aggregated numbers, can really be a catalyst for not only the region’s employers and the political sector, which it has so far been, but also for individuals living here and outside the Pittsburgh to say ‘wow, this is an opportunity I should take advantage of,’” said Gabriella Gonzalez, a sociologist with the RAND Corporation.

PittsburghTODAY will continue to benchmark progress over time to see how the well the area does with increasing diversity. The report is based on an analysis of workforce-related data collected by the Pittsburgh Regional Diversity Indicators Initiative, a group including Pittsburgh Today, Vibrant Pittsburgh and the RAND Corporation.