With a jobless rate generally below both the state average and the average US unemployment rate according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers in Pennsylvania's second largest city can breathe a sigh of relief.
The jobless rate in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area in December 2014 was 4.5 percent. This is far below the jobless rate in nearby Cleveland.
In December 2014 the Pittsburgh unemployment rate was the lowest it had been all year. In January 2014, the metro area saw its highest unemployment rate of 6.5 percent, but the rate slowly decreased over the course of the year. Aside from a spike in August 2014, the unemployment rate in Pittsburgh declined throughout 2014.
Pittsburgh During the 2008 Recession and Its Aftermath
Pittsburgh felt the effects of the 2008 recession, but this metro area was shielded from some of the recession's worst effects thanks to the city's long-established industries. Like other U.S. cities, Pittsburgh's highest unemployment rate hit in early 2010. In Pittsburgh, the jobless rate spiked at 9.2 percent in February 2010, still significantly lower than the national high of 10 percent.
Unemployment in Pittsburgh in 2011 and Beyond
While the jobless rate slowly returned to normal throughout much of the U.S., in Pittsburgh it declined quite rapidly over the course of 2010. The city's longstanding industries such as education, manufacturing, and technology, have contributed to a speedier than average recovery from the recession and have fostered competitive unemployment rates ever since.
While the area saw occasional spikes in its unemployment rates especially in January 2011 and 2013, overall Pittsburgh maintained a low unemployment rate between 2011 and 2013.
Pittsburgh's Major Industries and Their Impact on Unemployment
In 2014, the largest industries in Pittsburgh were education and health services, trade and transportation, professional and business services, government, and leisure and hospitality. The Steel City's nearly 70 colleges and universities, including the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, employ thousands of academics and postsecondary support staff in the metro area.
Between 2013 and 2014, Pittsburgh saw employment in the information, government, and professional and business services sectors all decrease by at least 1 percent. The information sector, which includes such heavy hitters as Google, Apple, Intel, and IBM saw the largest decline in employment, at 3.2 percent. If these information and business services industries continue to shrink in the Pittsburgh area, they may cause unemployment for professionals in these fields.
New Opportunities in Pittsburgh
Though some industries in the Pittsburgh metro area have shown signs of decline, others demonstrate significant growth. The leisure and hospitality sector, for example, grew by an impressive 8.2 percent between December 2013 and December 2014. The mining and logging industry grew by 4.7 percent and the construction industry grew by 1.5 percent over the course of 2014. The Steel City has long celebrated its hundreds of steel-related businesses; this area will likely continue to have a significant impact on employment in the Pittsburgh area.
Other sectors such as manufacturing, finance, and education and health services showed little growth in 2014. They did, however, demonstrate steady employment in the area, with companies that lead the way in robotics and healthcare technology, as well as the nuclear and energy research. Many of the science and engineering students from Pittsburgh's universities enjoy employment in these industries upon graduation.
While wages in Pittsburgh were below the national average in 2012 and 2013, they finally broke even with the U.S. average in late 2014. By December 2014, wages in Pittsburgh surpassed the national average for the first time in two and a half years. This growth has positive implications for Pittsburgh workers in many sectors.
A key measure of labor supply, the unemployment rate is defined as the percentage of the total labor force that is unemployed but actively seeking employment and willing to work. Use the links below to see unemployment trends from the 28 major metropolitan markets:
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