Southwestern Pennsylvania awoke from four years of stagnant job growth adding 12,600 jobs in 2017 – a 1.1 percent year-over-year increase in jobs across the region, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Although it was slightly less than the average job growth among 16 Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions last year, the increase was the largest seen in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area since 2012.
“I’m pleasantly surprised,” said Jim Futrell, vice president for market research at the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. “For the past couple years, the preliminary numbers had been revised downward, which wiped out the growth we had been hoping for. This year, the final revision was revised upward slightly.
“An increase of 12,600 jobs is a nice jump in employment, at least by our standards.”
Tepid job growth has been one of the most discouraging features of the regional economy for nearly a decade. It tended to hinder expansion of the local labor force, made it more difficult to attract people to the region and gave some residents reason to leave.
Pittsburgh’s job growth reflects an overall increase in jobs across the United States and among Pittsburgh Today benchmark cities, all of which posted job gains in 2017.
Austin, Texas surged to the top of the benchmark regions with 3.3 percent job growth last year, while Baltimore was at the bottom after experiencing only a .2 percent increase in jobs.
In the Pittsburgh MSA, jobs in the mining, logging and construction sector grew 7.7 percent – the highest increase among the benchmark regions. “The December number [of jobs added] was the highest since 2015,” Futrell said. “The sector stabilized, the prices [of natural gas] have come up. The sector is definitely on the rebound.”
It was also a strong year for education and health services jobs in the region, which rose 2.5 percent, and information sector jobs, which increased 2.2 percent. Jobs related to financial activities increased 2.1 percent and the leisure and hospitality sector added 1.5 percent more jobs than the previous year.
Even a .1 percent decrease in manufacturing jobs is positive sign for a sector that has shed thousands of jobs. “Manufacturing was stable and we haven’t seen that in quite awhile,” Futrell said. “That’s reassuring.”