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Pittsburgh Perspectives  

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020  04:05 PM  (38)

Foreign-Born Workers in Pittsburgh's Labor Force

Impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic include depressed levels of domestic and international travel to include smaller flows of workers coming into the United States. Contraction of economic activity was compounded by recent policies put in place between January and May 2020 that formally limited the entry of workers into country. On June 22, those restrictions were extended through the end of 2020. With some exceptions, the flow of workers entering the United States via common categories of visa is expected to remain at historically low levels. How many foreign-born workers are employed in the region and what sectors  of the economy will be the most impacted by depressed levels of international immigration. 

In recent years the Pittsburgh region has ranked comparatively low in the proportion of the region's population born outside of the United States. In 2018, only 4.0% of the population of the Pittsburgh MSA was estimated to be foreign-born, compared to 13.7% of the nation's population (American Community Survey 2018, 1-year, estimates). However, the characteristics of the foreign-born population in Pittsburgh differ significantly from other metropolitan areas. In particular, the foreign-born population in the Pittsburgh MSA has one of the highest levels of educational attainment in the nation. In 2018, 58.6% of the foreign-born population age 25 and over in the Pittsburgh MSA was estimated to have a bachelor's degree or higher, the highest percentage among the 40 largest metropolitan areas in the nation. For more on the educational attainment of the foreign born population in the Pittsburgh region see the early article in Pittsburgh Perspectives February 11, 2019.

Here the concentration of foreign-born workers in the Pittsburgh region's labor force is broken down by individual occupations and larger occupation groups. These estimates were calculated from the American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) data for the 2014-2018 period. This data reflects sample responses collected over five years. Occupations are categorized according to the 2018 Census Occupation Codes. Individual occupations are categorized as one of 570 specific occupations. Also reported here is the concentration of foreign-born workers across 23 occupation groups identified also identified by 2018 Census Occupation Codes

Foreign-born workers in Pittsburgh are disproportionately concentrated in certain industries and specific occupations. Across occupation groups, foreign-born workers make up the highest concentration of workers in Life, Physical and Social Sciences occupations (15.1%), followed by Computer and Mathematical occupations (11.5%), and then Architecture and Engineering Occupations.  

Foreign-Born Workers by Occupation Group - Pittsburgh MSA, 2014-2018

Major Occupation Group Total Workers Foreign-Born Workers
Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations 11,930 1,801 15.1%
Computer and Mathematical Occupations 38,198 4,386 11.5%
Architecture and Engineering Occupations 25,905 2,219 8.6%
Educational Instruction and Library Occupations 65,547 4,881 7.4%
Personal Care and Service Occupations 32,643 1,897 5.8%
Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Occupations 1,907 110 5.8%
Healthcare Support Occupations 37,667 1,979 5.3%
Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations 89,235 4,528 5.1%
Management Occupations 112,484 5,525 4.9%
Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations 19,139 899 4.7%
Community and Social Service Occupations 24,493 1,141 4.7%
Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations 68,541 3,003 4.4%
Transportation and Material Moving Occupations 691 29 4.2%
Sales and Related Occupations 115,674 4,188 3.6%
Business and Financial Operations Occupations 69,907 2,466 3.5%
Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations 35,543 1,215 3.4%
Production Occupations 59,099 1,892 3.2%
Construction and Extraction Occupations 54,433 1,525 2.8%
Office and Administrative Support Occupations 139,457 3,212 2.3%
Protective Service Occupations 21,685 457 2.1%
Legal Occupations 15,329 209 1.4%
Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations 35,476 214 0.6%



Detailed Occupations* with Highest Concentrations of Foreign Born Workers - Pittsburgh MSA, 2014-2018

Detailed Occupation Total Workers Foreign-Born Workers
Manicurists and pedicurists 1,767 696 39.4%
Other life scientists 1,093 429 39.2%
Physical scientists, all other 2,279 696 30.5%
Surgeons 530 161 30.4%
Software quality assurance analysts and testers 756 228 30.1%
Chemical engineers 786 210 26.7%
Postsecondary teachers 14,187 3,376 23.8%
Physicians 9,457 2,112 22.3%
Sewing machine operators 705 154 21.9%
Software developers 9,085 1,958 21.6%
Environmental science and geoscience technicians, and nuclear technicians 613 123 20.1%
Massage therapists 1,064 211 19.8%
Packers and packagers, hand 2,411 459 19.0%
Petroleum, mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers 626 104 16.6%
Gambling services workers 738 114 15.4%

* Among occupations with 500 or more workers in the Pittsburgh region. This list is the 15 occupations with the highest concentrations of foreign-born workers among 570 specific occupations identified in 2018 Census Occupation Codes. 


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