Unemployment Slides Lower
September ended with another month of low unemployment in the Pittsburgh region, but not as low as the rest of the nation.
The Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 4.9 percent in September 2017 to 4.1 percent in September 2018, according to recently released data from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in September.
“The U.S. economy is continuing to grow jobs and the unemployment rate in the U.S. has continued to tick down,” said Chris Briem, regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Social and Urban Research. “The past year and a half we’ve shot past the national unemployment rate and I think that tracks pretty closely with why job growth hasn’t been that great and why population and migration haven’t turned around.”
Within the region, Butler County had the lowest unemployment rate at 3.8 percent, while Fayette County had the highest rate at 5.7 percent.
“You have to see the local unemployment rate converge with the national unemployment rate before you can start to see net migration of the workforce back into the region, and how well we keep workers from going elsewhere,” said Briem. “We’re not there yet.”
The region’s demographics, particularly its working age population factors into the low unemployment rate. Year-over-year the number of people in the labor force in southwestern Pennsylvania decreased by 4,900 while the number of unemployed decreased by 8,400.
Despite lagging the nation, the economic picture in the region is still sunny. “Construction employment in September was still high–at a level of construction employment that we haven’t seen since we built two stadiums,” said Briem. “Mining employment has stabilized in the region and in the state and that’s a good thing. The region reacting to that is probably the core story of what’s going on is the state and the region.”