Unemployment Drops Again in October
The seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 8.3 percent in September to 7.2 percent in October, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor Center for Workforce Information & Analysis program.
“7.2 percent is high, but is not extraordinary,” said Chris Briem, regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Social and Urban Research. “It’s still in a reasonable range. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the labor market is back to where it should be, given the size of the employment loss and the labor force declines over the year.”
Unemployment claimed 28,400 more southwestern Pennsylvania workers this October compared to October 2019, when the rate was 4.6 percent.
The national unemployment rate fell one percentage point from 7.9 percent in September to 6.9 percent in October.
“This is not last year’s labor market,” Briem said. “The only reason the unemployment rate has dropped so much is because the labor force is down and it’s persistent.”
Since October 2019, the Pittsburgh region has lost 44,000 members of its labor force. And the local labor force shed 12,500 workers from this September to October alone.
“Who those 44,000 are is hard to parse at the moment,” Briem said. “It could be people moving out of the region. It could be a fair number of students didn’t come back. It’s unclear at this point whether this is local folks who have shifted out of the labor force or other shifts, such as the contraction of the size of the local population.”
Within the region, some counties have weathered the pandemic better than others, but none have been immune to its economic effect.
In October, Butler County’s unemployment rate of 5.9 percent was the lowest in the seven-county region. Unemployment in Fayette County is 9.4 percent, the highest rate in the MSA. Allegheny County, home to the City of Pittsburgh, posted an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent.
“The long-term impacts of COVID are still unknown,” Briem said. “But there will be shifts that go beyond the immediate public health related impacts that shut down businesses temporarily. There will be shifts in where people are working—are they working downtown or are they working from home? Will people shift their balance of work? If they’re staying home with the kids now, will they come back into the labor force? These will affect the future labor market.”