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Pittsburgh Perspectives  

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Tuesday, December 18, 2018  09:10 AM  (13)

Expanding Research Employment in the Pittsburgh Region

Employment at Pittsburgh-region establishments specialized in research and development reached a new peak in recently released employment data.  As of the 2nd Quarter of 2018, total employment in the Scientific Research and Development Services reached 8,150 jobs in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). These jobs generated just under $220 million in wages over the quarter, for an average weekly wage of $2,075.

This data comes from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), a cooperative program involving the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor and State Employment Security Agencies, which compiles employment and wage data on detailed industry sectors at a local level. Data is compiled for individual establishments, which can either be single-location firms, or part of larger enterprises which operate across many different locations. Shown above is the trend in employment levels for the Pittsburgh region in the industry category Scientific Research and Development Services, or North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) code 5417, since 2003.  This industry specializes in providing contract basic research services that may result in the creation of intellectual property.

QCEW Employment within NAICS code 5417 is in addition to jobs generated by research and development that is taking place within establishments across other industry categories. This includes much of the research that that is ongoing within university-based research in the Pittsburgh region. Only when a specific establishment, or enterprise location, is primarily focused on research and development is employment typically included in this specialized industry category. This could include dedicated corporate or non-profit research laboratories operating throughout the region. New growth in the region is being generated by a range of new corporate research activity relocating to and expanding in the region,  but the industry also includes employment in long-standing research enterprises such as the Bettis Atomic Laboratory which has operated in West Mifflin since 1946. 

Regional employment in Scientific Research and Development Services has sustained moderate growth over the most recent decade but has shown accelerating growth in just the most recent five years, jumping over 30% since 2013. Growth in the industry has exceeded even recent projections for the Pittsburgh region. In 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Workforce and Information and Analysis (CWIA) published long-range forecasts of employment by industry for the Pittsburgh MSA.  At the time, total employment in Scientific Research and Development Services was projected to grow just over 4% over the coming decade, expected to grow from 6,890 jobs in 2014 to just 7,180 jobs in 2014, a level reached by the beginning of 2015.

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