Area creates jobs, however progress is sluggish

Employers in the Pittsburgh area added workers to their payroll in March, but the modest job gains were a weak signal of recovery from the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The statistical metropolitan region of Pittsburgh with seven districts created around 9,000 jobs between February and March 2021 – an increase of 0.8 percent, according to the BLS.

“We’ve had some modest job gains, but it’s been relatively slow,” said Chris Briem, regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research. “The region is not showing a major comeback that will bring us back to pre-COVID levels.”

Around two-thirds of the job growth last month came from construction, leisure and hospitality – two of the hardest-hit employment sectors during the pandemic, Briem said.

“That is certainly a good thing, but seasonal employment growth in the construction industry is to be expected. Outside these two sectors, employment growth has been very flat, as it has been for several months. “

The gains have not eliminated the job losses caused by COVID that have accumulated over the past year. The region lost 71,600 jobs between March 2020 and March 2021 – a decrease of 6.8 percent over the twelve month period. The region’s job losses were above the year-over-year decrease of 5.3 percent average among Pittsburgh Today’s 16 reference regions.

No employment sector in the Pittsburgh area was spared the loss of jobs in March compared to last year’s payrolls. The leisure and hospitality sector, which has been hardest hit by the pandemic, has around 20 percent fewer jobs than a year ago.

The Pittsburgh MSA is not alone. All of Pittsburgh Today’s 16 benchmark regions reported job losses between March 2020 and March 2021.

Austin downsizing was the lowest year-over-year. The Texas area only lost 1 percent of the jobs it had 12 months earlier. The Boston metropolitan area was hit hardest among the reference regions, shedding 7.9 percent of jobs compared to the previous year.

“We’re still looking at what could happen when public health problems subside,” said Briem.

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