The number of jobs in southwest Pennsylvania declined slightly in August, further slowing regional recovery to pre-pandemic levels.
According to the latest data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers in the seven counties of Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area had 3,100 fewer posts on their payroll as of August than a month earlier. This is the second straight month that the hiring has slipped in the region.
“It continues the trend of not being a trend,” said Chris Briem, a regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research. “I’m not that concerned about the number of jobs that are going to be lost. It is within the variation of that time of year.
“But we don’t have a trend to bring ourselves back to pre-COVID levels. That pretty much confirms that we’re not going to see that. “
Over the past year, the region has slowly restored jobs that were lost at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In August, for example, the region had 41,000 more jobs a year earlier.
The comeback continued in some industries. According to Briem, the construction industry, which has created 7,200 jobs since August 2020, is just below the “highest level of the last decade”.
The surge in employment in the leisure and hospitality industry, arguably the hardest hit at the height of the pandemic, has fueled much of employment growth in the region in recent months. The industry has 17,300 more employees than in August 2020. But even the recovery in this industry has slowed. Last month there were 1,700 fewer jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry than in July.
“Leisure time and hospitality have increased every month this year, but now it looks like they have stabilized,” said Briem. “The question is whether employers are facing relatively unique recruitment problems or whether they no longer need as much manpower as they did before. We have to see if the jobs come back with the return of the students or if they have come back as far as they can. “
September employment data could serve as a guide to the region’s long-term economic outlook. It will be the first to capture the impact of students returning to campus, entering the labor market, and generating demand for jobs.
“I don’t expect the student return to bring all of these jobs back,” said Briem. “But I think once the students are back and the public health effects normalize, we will have a clearer idea of the long-term impact COVID is having on regional employment.”