Julia Fraser

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

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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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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Where Nature and History Collide

Here are a few state parks in Pennsylvania that offer nature at its most dramatic and some history of what life was like long before barcodes, internet and smart phones. McConnells Mill The park wraps around a restored 19th century gristmill that ground buckwheat, oats and corn with the force of the wild stretch of …

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Region Adds Jobs, But Growth Slows

Employers in southwestern Pennsylvania continued to boost their payrolls in September, but at a slower pace than what has characterized the regional job market over the past year. The seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area added 1,100 jobs from September 2018 to September 2019 – a 0.09 percent year-over-year increase, according to new data from the …

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Workforce Expands, Unemployment Remains Low

The Pittsburgh region’s August unemployment rate bumped from 3.8 percent in July to 3.9, hovering above the national rate but still among the lowest rates in the last 50 years. Year-over-year, the region’s unemployment was down 0.3 percent from 4.2 percent in August 2018, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Butler County …

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Job Growth Slows

For the second consecutive month, job growth has slowed in southwestern Pennsylvania, and its peer regions posted job growth rates that are among the lowest of the year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The silver lining is that jobs still grew in southwestern Pennsylvania and nearly all the of Pittsburgh Today’s 16 …

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Can Higher Garbage Pickup Fees Reduce Consumption and Waste?

The United States is in the midst of a recycling crisis. Decades of recycling haven’t curbed America’s appetite to consume. It’s increasingly difficult to find someone willing to buy the soda cans, old magazines, milk jugs and pickle jars we recycle. Recycling is getting more expensive. And municipalities are shrinking their recycling programs. “We’re in …

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Unemployment Drops—Labor Force Grows

Southwestern Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate remained below 4 percent in July, hovering slightly higher than the national average as job seekers in the region and across the U.S. continued to find work. Unemployment in the region remained at rates that haven’t been seen since the early months of 1970. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the …

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The Price of Nature’s Beauty

Second in a three-part series: Even modest exploration of Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests reveals their gifts: hidden waterfalls that appear along hiking trails, imposing rock formations bolted with anchors for climbing, lakes created by dams for swimming and boating on warm summer days, and rivers and streams stocked with fish for the catching. Some …

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Job Growth Stalls

Employers in southwestern Pennsylvania hit the brakes on job creation in the region last month. The seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area added only 800 jobs from July 2018 and July 2019—a 0.1 percent year-over-year increase, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is the lowest growth rate among Pittsburgh Today’s …

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