Bill O'Toole

Bill O’Toole is a staff writer with Pittsburgh Today. His beats include public safety, transportation, government and housing. Before returning to his native Pittsburgh, he spent several years reporting in Myanmar.

Pandemic Widens Pittsburgh’s Digital Divide

In Pittsburgh and across the nation, the coronavirus pandemic has isolated residents in their homes and shifted huge swaths of public life to the digital world that 1 in 10 people in southwestern Pennsylvania are left out of. Closing longstanding gaps in access to the Internet has taken on new urgency as employers, educators, doctors …

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Virus Fallout

Even as it’s leading the fight against the coronavirus in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County is facing a devastating decline in revenue because of the virus. The county depends on a wide array of tax revenues that are certain to decline, at least during the next several months, due to business closures, stay-at-home orders and the slowing …

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The City of Pittsburgh Faces Crisis but Its ‘Rainy-Day Fund’ Leaves It Better Prepared Than Most

In a letter to the White House Monday seeking federal support, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto projected a 21 percent loss in revenues this year. The expected $127 million loss will plunge the city into a financial crisis, but that blow may be softened by a little known rainy-day fund. “Over a five-year period from 2020–2024 …

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When the Spanish Flu Swept In, Pittsburgh Failed the Test

Within days of Allegheny County’s first confirmed case of coronavirus in March, city and county officials moved to shutter nonessential businesses, with their efforts buttressed by stay at home orders from Harrisburg shortly thereafter. This was not the case in 1918, when the Spanish flu ravaged the region, state, nation and world. And Pittsburghers paid …

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Region Gained Jobs in January but Pandemic Fallout Looms

The Pittsburgh region added 3,900 jobs from January 2019 to January 2020—a .33 percent increase that’s a faint bright spot in the rearview mirror of an economy in turmoil from the worldwide spread of the coronavirus. “The year ended much as it began, with modest employment growth,” said Christopher Briem, regional economist at the University …

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Hospitals, State Moving to Expand COVID-19 Testing

UPMC officials yesterday announced the Pittsburgh-based health system is developing a test of its own to detect the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, which could help expand the capacity to quickly determine who has been infected—something that has been a shortcoming of the U.S. response to the worldwide outbreak of the novel strain of virus. Meanwhile, …

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Sinkholes, Congestion and Amazon

On the morning of Monday, Oct. 28, a massive sinkhole, roughly 20 feet in diameter, suddenly opened on 10th Street in Downtown Pittsburgh, swallowing the back half of a Port Authority bus. There were no serious injuries, and the cartoonish photos shared from the scene were generally met with delight on social media across the …

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Local Unemployment Rises

Unemployment in the Pittsburgh region climbed to 4.5 percent in December, an increase of two-tenths of a percent from the month before and a three-tenths of a percent increase over the rate reported 12 months earlier. The national unemployment rate in December was 3.5 percent. Pennsylvania’s rate was 4.5 percent. Unemployment rates rose in each …

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Region Sees Very Slight Increase in Jobs

After two months of decline, jobs in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area increased by .08 percent from December 2018 through December 2019, according U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The increase was the second-lowest growth among Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions. Gains were largely fueled by the professional and business services sector, and the information …

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Local Unemployment Nudges Upward

Unemployment rates in the Pittsburgh region continued their slight but steady climb in November, according to preliminary figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Overall unemployment for the region stands at 4.3 percent, an increase of two-tenths of a percent since October and one-tenth of a percent increase since November 2018. Unemployment rates …

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Last Place: Job Growth Continues Downward Trend

Job growth in Western Pennsylvania continued to slide in November. It was the second consecutive month of decline following several years of steady, if weak, growth. According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, from November 2018 until November 2019, overall job growth decreased by .38 percent in the seven-county Pittsburgh …

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Local Wages Rise, but Growth is Slow

Wages in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical area continued to grow in the second quarter of 2019, but at a slower rate than the average among Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The region’s average weekly wage rose from $1,134 to $1,159 from the second quarter of 2018 to …

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Widening Wage Gap Separates White and Minority Workers

The gap between white and minority workers grew by a whopping 62 percent from 2007 to 2017 in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The report’s authors said the findings, based on data from the Brookings Institution’s Metro Monitor Report for 2019, point to weaknesses …

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Job Growth Declines, Bucking Recent Trends

After several years of steady, if tepid, employment growth, the Pittsburgh region lost 3,000 jobs over the latest 12-month period reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. From October 2018 until October 2019, overall job growth declined by .25 percent in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area. “It’s a quarter of a percent, but …

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Stuck in Traffic

Motorists in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area spent nearly two days of their lives sitting in traffic in 2017, according to new data from the Texas Transportation Institute. Overall, annual delays per traveler on local roads rose from 39 hours in 2014 to 46 hours in 2017, an increase of 18 percent. Still, delays in …

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A Slight Dip, but Workforce Numbers Hold Steady

Despite a slight increase in the unemployment rates, overall workforce trends in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area continued to mostly hold steady through September, according to preliminary figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Overall unemployment for the seven county region stands at 4.0 percent, an increase of one tenth of a percentage …

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