Why Does the Peak Pittsburgh Labor Force Keep Not Being News?

I really do not understand. It’s not like people aren’t interested in the issue of jobs and how to make more of them. It’s not like politicians and advocacy organizations aren’t interested in these issues. It’s not like the news media isn’t interested in them.

So why is it that the boomingest most impressive labor market in the state doesn’t get any attention when we talk about why doesn’t Pennsylvania have more jobs?

Why aren’t politicians and political activists on both sides pointing at Pittsburgh and saying “Hey! maybe we should try to do what they’re doing” or “Hey! maybe our state jobs strategy should be picking up people in areas with no jobs, and dropping them into Pittsburgh?” It really is a mystery…


  1. To be fair, its the Pittsburgh MSA that is growing, which is about 7 counties around Pittsburgh, not just the city–Pittsburgh does have some very prosperous suburbs. And unemployment is still very high, so I don’t think dumping unemployed people will do too much. But it is good news.

  2. What do YOU think is making it happen, Geeter? Government spending?

  3. A Brookings study attributes the bulk of the recovery in Pittsburgh to the emerging shale gas industry and related businesses. Which makes for an interesting intersection of the effects of agglomeration (a terrible word!) and extraction industry on the regional economy (a similar effect is seen in the strong recovery of Dallas).



    • Jon Geeting says:

      Why is agglomeration a terrible word? I guess it would be useful to differentiate between the effects of forward and backward supply chain linkages Paul Krugman was talking about in his Nobel work, and the effects of proximity and larger markets. The Shale gas industry is a pretty good example of the former, but I would argue that Pittsburgh has also been benefitting from the latter as the demand for urban housing has increased. One estimate puts their rental occupancy rate at 98.6%. The growing number of residents in the core has increased the size of the market for non-tradable services. A larger market can support more total service businesses and more specialization.

  4. Its just terrible because it sounds awful to pronounce–even Orwellian. Maybe “biggification” is ahead of its time? I stand squarely behind this word.

    I think, in general, you underrate the importance of tradeable sectors to urban development. Its easy to take a city like Detroit, give tax credits to fix up a few buildings, and open some “studios,” coffee shops, bars, and gyms. You’ll get some young people, they’ll rent places, and in that perspective life will be good (certainly for the building owners) and the downtown will be a bit more lively. Those are–no doubt–good things for cities. I’ll be Allentown has pretty good occupancy both in the residential and business sectors too, even before the NIZ.

    However, this form of development doesn’t seem to do much for cities’ bottom lines or much for income inequality either–particularly when growth is on the lower end of the service spectrum (barista, bartender, service worker in a hospital). I’m not degrading the work at all–but it needs a follow on idea on how the global economy impacts pay and benefits and how society (through government or otherwise) reacts to it.

    Pittsburgh seems to be moving back to a classic small city economy–having a service sector (legal, business, etc.) focused on supporting an emerging industry. A lot of cities, like Detroit, lost this raison d’etre over the years. I think Allentown needs to put more thought in this area.

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