“If I was in Pittsburgh, I would have a guaranteed job”

Whether true or not, just the fact that this is someone’s perception out there is pretty amazing.  From the Philadelphia Inquirer today is a young diasporan’s comment: “”If I was in Pittsburgh, I would have a guaranteed job,”  When was the last period anyone even thought such a thing, let alone said it out loud and for the record?

Just a conincidece that story runs on the say we get the monthly data dump which is showing the regional unemployment rate ticked up a bit.  The curious thing about the regional unemployment rate the last few months is that the trend has diverged from the state’s unemployment rate.  Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has trended down, while Pittsburgh’s has trended up.  That is unusual over recent years.  What’s it mean?  If not a sample error issue that will converge, it is worth watching.  Still the regional unemployment rate is well below the state and far below the nation. by 2.1 percentage points which is nearly a record.

I’ve been trying to figure if any period before 1970 is comparable to today and it’s a bit hard to compare  The lowest recorded unemployment rate for the region since the state began regularly reporting Pittsburgh region labor force data in 1949 I think was 2.3% in November of 1966.  But the labor market area back then was 4 counties and if you did any spatial adjustment it would not be so low.  Still, even then, with a national unemployment rate of 3.6% the difference was only 1.3% points.

Which all goes back to our quote above. High local employment at 7% or not, people make the best choices they can.  Regional unemployment rates in themselves are not very good predictors of population migration, but relative unemployment rates do much better.  Things could be great in one location, but if things are even better elsewhere folks will move away.  Similarly, things can be bad in one region, but if they are even worse elsewhere folks will move in.  So we are at 57 months and counting since the national unemployment rate was lower than the region’s and most of that time by an unprecedented amount. Barring some unprecedented convergence we will get to 5 straight years in the fall.

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