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Pittsburgh Region Begins Slow Economic Recovery During Pandemic, Unemployment Rate Remains High

Keith Srakocic
After two months of decline, the unemployment rate for the Pittsburgh area rose to 14.5 percent in July.


On today's program: Though the unemployment rate remains high, some sectors of the Pittsburgh economy are beginning the slow recovery process; the new school year poses additional difficulties for students who lack secure housing; and guidance on traveling during the pandemic can be confusing.

Economic recovery will “depend on consumer confidence,” says analyst
(00:00 — 6:14)

Tens of thousands of Pittsburgh-area residents lost their jobs this year due to the pandemic and the resultant recession. Theunemployment rate in the Pittsburgh region hit a high of 16.4 percent in April, and after two months of decline, it rose to 14.5 percent in July.

But according to thePittsburgh Region Employment Update from theAllegheny Conference on Community Development, some sectors of the labor market are beginning to bounce back.

Of the more than 200,000 jobs lost from February through April, about 53 percent have been regained, says Jim Futrell, vice president of market research and analysis for the Conference. Many of those jobs are in the construction, retail and health care industries. 

It will take time to regain other jobs lost in the region, says Futrell.

“A lot of it is going to depend on consumer confidence. Do people feel comfortable going out again? It’s going to probably slow down a bit as people just kind of feel out what’s going on in the world going forward.” 

Homeless students navigate school work during the pandemic
(6:15 — 13:37)

During the pandemic, living rooms and kitchens have become classrooms, and school districts have scrambled to secure computers and other technology for students. The changes have been difficult for many students and their families, but for those experiencing housing insecurity, this school year could pose even more challenges.


“All families are being impacted,” says Carlos Carter, executive director of theHomeless Children’s Education Fund. “I’ve talked to middle-class families that are really struggling and worried and I’m like, ‘I understand you’re concerned, but imagine what our families are facing.’”

Students experiencing homelessness may not have a quiet space or a reliable internet connection to do their virtual school work, and the stress of these difficulties can impact learning. Advocates worry the pandemic could add to the barriers and disadvantages faced by homeless students.

Is travel safe during the pandemic?
(13:39 — 17:48)

As fall approaches, many people are lamenting the loss of their annual summer vacations. Others are considering a getaway as the temperatures change and fewer people flock to hotspots. But guidance about where and how to travel can be confusing.


90.5 WESA’sKiley Koscinski takes a look at what the experts recommend when it comes to planning a trip during a pandemic.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at
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