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Pittsburgh Perspectives  

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Friday, February 26, 2021  01:00 PM  (47)

Worker Characteristics of Regional Employment Losses in 2020

Through the end of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had significant and ongoing economic impacts both nationally and regionally.  These employment impacts peaked during the spring of 2020 and resulted in temporary and extended job losses. While there was a  rebound in regional employment levels from peak job losses in the spring, total employment in the Pittsburgh region at the end of 2020 remained depressed by 80-86 thousand workers, or a loss of around 7% of total regional employment, compared to year-ago levels.

Data on the characteristics of the regional workers are available through the 2nd quarter of 2020 when the pandemic’s economic impacts peaked.  Here a comparison of job losses between the 2nd quarter of 2019 and the 2nd quarter of 2020 provides insight into the types of workers which have been most impacted by COVID-19.

Employment data is compiled from the Quarterly Workforce Indicators (QWI) and reflects data on employed workers in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). QWI employment data is collected via a federal-state data sharing collaboration, the Local Employment Dynamics (LED) partnership, and publishes a set of economic indicators, including workers’ characteristics for counties and metropolitan areas. The QWI is a unique source of data on worker demographics, including detailed employment breakdowns by sex, age, education, race, and ethnicity. Quarterly employment levels reflect the average employment during each three-month period.

Between the 2nd quarter of 2019 and the 2nd quarter of 2020, QWI data shows that the total number of workers employed in the Pittsburgh region declined from 1,149,516 to 1,066,971, a contraction of  82,543  or -7.2%.  

By age, the Pittsburgh region’s largest employment losses were among workers age 25-34, which declined by 17,222 (-6.9%), but the highest percentage decline was the 15.3% employment loss for workers between the ages of 19-21. The 2nd highest concentration of job loss was a 15% contraction in employed workers age 18 and under. These concentrated job losses could reflect concentrated job losses in the industries most likely to employ young workers but can also reflect the temporary relocation of workers in the spring of 2020.  Many regional college students concentrated in this age group were displaced in the spring as most institutions shifted to online learning.  Employed students who moved out of the region are likely part of the contraction of workers in this age range.

By educational attainment, both the largest decline in the number of employed workers, and the highest proportion of job loss were for workers with high school degrees or equivalent, but no additional college.  The number of employed workers with a high school degree or equivalent, but no college contracted by 24,072, or -7.9% over, compared to a decline of 13,680, or -4.6% for workers with a bachelor's degree or higher. 

Employment for Black or African American workers in the Pittsburgh region declined by 7.9%, compared to a 7.3% decline for white workers and a 2.6% decline for Asian workers.  By gender, the number of employed women in the region contracted by 7.5%, while the number of employed men declined by 6.9%.  

Characteristics of Employed Workers, Pittsburgh MSA 2019Q2 and 2020Q2


2019 Q2

2020 Q2


2019Q2 to 2020Q2

Total Employed Workers 1,149,516 1,066,971 -82,545 -7.2%
By Educational Attainment
Less than high school 99,913 93,008 -6,905 -6.9%
High school or equivalent, no college 303,261 279,189 -24,072 -7.9%
Some college or Associate degree 319,605 299,845 -19,760 -6.2%
Bachelor's degree or advanced degree 297,061 283,381 -13,680 -4.6%
Educational attainment not available (workers aged 24 or younger) 129,676 111,548 -18,128 -14.0%
By Age Group        
14-18 24,559 20,867 -3,692 -15.0%
19-21 43,068 36,491 -6,577 -15.3%
22-24 62,048 54,191 -7,857 -12.7%
25-34 250,288 233,039 -17,249 -6.9%
35-44 228,814 218,937 -9,877 -4.3%
45-54 234,900 218,087 -16,813 -7.2%
55-64 225,693 210,781 -14,912 -6.6%
65-99 80,145 74,578 -5,567 -6.9%
By Race        
White Alone 1,005,847 932,460 -73,387 -7.3%
Black or African American Alone 95,459 87,889 -7,570 -7.9%
American Indian or Alaska Native Alone 2,094 1,983 -111 -5.3%
Asian Alone 30,334 29,542 -792 -2.6%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander Alone 682 643 -39 -5.7%
Two or More Race Groups 15,099 14,456 -643 -4.3%
By Gender        
Male 581,075 541,118 -39,957 -6.9%
Female 568,440 525,854 -42,586 -7.5%



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