Unemployment Falls Hard


Photo by Colin Creitz

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Southwestern Pennsylvania hasn’t seen an unemployment rate this low since Richard Nixon was president, the Beatles announced they were breaking up and America was embroiled in the Vietnam War.

The unemployment rate in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area fell from 5.0 percent in May 2017 to 3.9 percent in May 2018.

“We haven’t seen an unemployment rate this low since the beginning of the 1970s, said Chris Briem. “That certainly is important.”

Unemployment in the Pittsburgh MSA remained slightly higher than the 3.8 percent national rate in May, although the region took big step toward closing the gap.

“It’s still important to note that it’s above the national unemployment rate,” Briem said. “It means that there are other cities with palpably lower unemployment rates. That means recruiting other workers here might have gotten a little easier as of late, but it’s still not going to be easy.”

The Pittsburgh MSA unemployment rate is also higher than the 3.5 percent average among Pittsburgh Today —the benchmark regions. Denver and Nashville lead the way with unemployment rates of only 2.5 percent.

The gap affects the region’s competitiveness for attracting workers region and for boosting the lagging labor force.  The region’s labor force contracted by 1.3 percent from May 2017 to May 2018—the largest percentage drop in the labor force of Pittsburgh Today’s benchmark regions.

“Nationally, it’s important to talk about people moving in and out of the labor force for many reasons, like discouraged workers,” said Briem. “Locally, it’s a different story.” In the Pittsburgh MSA, labor force growth will likely depend on whether more people move into the region than leave it.