Julia Fraser

Julia Fraser is a Pittsburgh Today staff writer and research specialist.

Unemployment Eases and Labor Force Shrinks

The unemployment rate fell across southwestern Pennsylvania in June, when business closures began to ease as the region moved into the “green phase” of pandemic restrictions. But the coronavirus has taken a huge bite out of the local workforce. Pittsburgh’s seven-county metropolitan statistical area posted a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 12.5 percent in June. …

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Pittsburgh Renters Have Kept up Their Payments—So Far

On a July Pittsburgh afternoon, temperatures soared into the 90s. Public pools were dry, closed by pandemic restrictions. But for mask-wearing residents trickling out of Eastside Bond, a high-end East Liberty apartment complex, their private outdoor pool offered relief. There are new rules: Masks when not swimming; stay six feet apart in and out of …

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Jobs Shrink 10%

Employers in the Pittsburgh region started adding to their payrolls in May and June. But it was not nearly enough to offset steep job losses over the last 12 months as the coronavirus pandemic continues to weigh on the region’s economy. The seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area lost an estimated 116,900 jobs from June 2019 …

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Local Unemployment Drops, but Rate Remains Staggering

Unemployment in southwestern Pennsylvania fell sharply in May, when the region began to relax social restrictions and reopen businesses that had been closed to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Still, the jobless rate remains at levels rarely seen as the pandemic continued to take its toll on the local economy. The seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan …

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Pandemic Heats Up Housing Market

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted business as usual in the residential real estate industry as it swept through the Pittsburgh region in March. It shut the doors on open houses, cancelled showings and stifled home inspections. But it failed to curb demand. A Howard Hanna real estate agent helped a seller stage a home via Facetime …

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Pandemic Slams Pittsburgh Jobs

The COVID-19 pandemic continued its attack on the Pittsburgh metropolitan job market in May with the region losing 175,800 jobs since May 2019, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. All of Pittsburgh Today’s 15 benchmark regions posted significant job losses in May. The seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area lost 14.6 percent over its jobs …

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April Unemployment Nears 17 Percent

Unemployment in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area reached 16.8 percent in April—just below the region’s peak unemployment rate in the early 1980s. For the first time since the collapse of the steel industry, fewer than one million people were employed in the Pittsburgh region, according to preliminary employment data from the Pennsylvania Department of …

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The Curtain Rises on a New Reality

The music of Chopin isn’t soaring through Heinz Hall. “Jersey Boys” won’t dance in sync on the Benedum stage. And a mid-June Friday night at Point State Park won’t be packed with concert-goers in lawn chairs. Instead, the Pittsburgh region’s arts and cultural organizations—which employ 15,000 and add roughly $1 billion in direct spending into …

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Pittsburgh’s April Job Loss Is Worst Ever

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the Pittsburgh metropolitan job market with record-breaking force in April, with the region losing 204,500 jobs compared with April of last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor. Pittsburgh’s loss reflects the employment picture across America as the economic impact of the pandemic intensifies. The United States lost 20.5 million …

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Development Boom On Hold

Pittsburgh’s landscape was about to undergo a major facelift this year. The Strip District, Station Square, the lower Hill District were all to break ground on major commercial and multi-use real estate projects. Until COVID-19 arrived. The sudden sweep of the pandemic across the region halted most new construction. Delays in building are compounded by …

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Who Is Most Affected When Places of Worship Close?

The closing of churches, synagogues and other places of worship during the COVID-19 pandemic affects the practices of nearly 2 in 3 Allegheny County residents. But the hardship is not evenly shared. Hardest hit are residents who regularly attend religious services, such as those who attend every day or at least once a week. In …

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The Old Order’s Final Portrait

While economic damage from the coronavirus is obvious in Pittsburgh’s deserted streets, the March jobs numbers will be the last ones from the pre-virus era. The most recent job growth numbers show that the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area gained about 1,200 jobs between March 2019 and March 2020, a 0.1 percent increase over the …

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Will Pittsburgh’s Dining Scene Survive the Pandemic?

Pittsburgh, where sandwiches held together with French fries and coleslaw once defined its cuisine, had become a mecca for chefs and bold, award-winning restaurants. The city topped Zagat’s list of top food cities. The BBC last year anointed it the seventh-best destination for foodies in the world. And the New York Times proclaimed: “If there …

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As COVID-19 Cases Mount, Pa. Hospitals Get Some Relief

State lawmakers approved a $50 million relief package yesterday for Pennsylvania’s hospitals in what could be just the first infusion of cash into the statewide health care network as it battles the growing COVID-19 crisis. Legislators approved the money one day after a statewide hospital trade group urged them to set up a fund to …

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Dancing on Pittsburgh Streets: Bring Gene Kelly Alive Again

A shirtless Tupac Shakur stalked the stage at California’s Coachella music festival in 2012. He raised his arms to the roar of the stunned crowd and launched into his posthumous hit single, “Hail Mary.” The performance took place more than 15 years after Shakur was murdered in a drive-by shooting. But on that night at …

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Local Hospitals Brace for the Coronavirus

The coronavirus has yet to reach southwestern Pennsylvania, buying local hospitals time to put in place strategies for responding to the novel virus that has spread to 113 countries worldwide. UPMC and Allegheny Health Network, the region’s two major health systems, are preparing their hospitals and facilities, educating their providers and addressing the public in …

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No Contest

Pittsburgh’s arts and culture sector outperforms many of its peer cities when it comes to arts participation, organizations per capita and economic impact, but equity issues persist, according to a new from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. Attendance of arts and culture events dwarfs that generated by the region’s professional sports teams combined—Steelers included. “It’s …

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Gone Before Their Time

In Pittsburgh’s early 20th century industrial economy, danger lurked in rail yards, on the exposed I-beams of tall buildings under construction and in steel mills where gases and fire coexisted. “Ten minutes before, we stood there laughing, and not one of us had an idea there was anything wrong with that furnace,” lawyer and journalist …

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The Obesity Puzzle

Temptation lurks in gooey fudge icing layered in a slice of moist chocolate cake and the hot salty crunch of a french fry. The sight and smell can incite the body to ramp up blood pressure, heart rate, skin conductance and salivary response—characteristics of arousal and excitement. It’s a response that Lisa Germeroth hopes to …

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Unemployment Unchanged; Remains Low in Region

The Pittsburgh region’s unemployment didn’t budge from October 2018 to October 2019, but plenty is changing in the region’s economy. Metropolitan Pittsburgh’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 4.1 percent in October, unchanged from October 2018, according to data from Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. The national unemployment rate last month was 3.6 percent. …

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City Parks Fell Short in Funding Until Voters Said OK to New Tax

When City of Pittsburgh residents voted to raise their property taxes to support public parks earlier this month, they chipped away at a major obstacle to the city park system being rated as one of the best in urban America. Voters in November approved a referendum for a .5-mill property tax increase for capital improvements …

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Protecting the Parks

The flat-headed, mucus-covered salamander recently named Pennsylvania’s state amphibian goes by many names: snot otter, lasagna lizard, devil dog, mud-devil, grampus, Allegheny alligator. Most commonly, however, they’re known as the Eastern hellbender. The big, slimy amphibians are found under large, flat rocks in Pennsylvania’s fast-moving rivers and streams, such as the Youghiogheny River. They rarely …

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