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Pittsburgh Perspectives  

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Monday, November 26, 2018  12:15 PM  (8)

Pittsburgh's unemployment rate compared to the nation

In September 2018, the unemployment rate for the 7-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) was estimated to be 4.1%, near the lowest rates the region has experienced at any point since the mid-1970s.  However, the nation's unemployment rate for September dipped to 3.7%, its lowest rate since 1969.  Many economic and demographic trends in Pittsburgh are impacted not by the absolute level of unemployment, but by the relative difference between regional workforce conditions and conditions elsewhere in the nation.  The graphic below shows the relative difference between regional and national monthly unemployment rates since 1970. 

The concentration of the nation's deindustrialization in Southwestern Pennsylvania is reflected in the large difference between regional and national unemployment rates during the 1980s.  The nation experienced two national recessions in the early part of the decade, with the nation's unemployment rate peaking at 104% in January 1983. However, the Pittsburgh metropolitan region* peaked at 17.1% the same month. Significantly higher regional unemployment rates were a direct cause of large net out-migration, and in particular, the out-migration of Pittsburgh's younger workforce that has impacted the regional economy ever since.  

More recently, Pittsburgh sustained unemployment rates significantly below comparable national rates for nearly 84 straight months between January 2007 and May 2015. This coincides with a period of net in-migration of population Pittsburgh experienced between 2008 and 2014. However, Pittsburgh's unemployment rate again exceeded the comparable national rate in August 2015, and has remained above the national unemployment rate since. 


* The historical data and graphic here reflects unemployment for the current 7-county definition of the Pittsburgh MSA.  

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