The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area fell from 7.2 percent in October to 6.5 percent in November, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor Center for Workforce Information & Analysis program data.
“The unemployment rate is high, but not exceptional,” said Chris Briem, regional economist at the Center for Social and Urban Research at the University of Pittsburgh. “It reflects the recovery from the worst COVID crisis last spring, but we’ve really hit a plateau in terms of job returns.”
The average unemployment rate among Pittsburgh Today’s 16 reference regions was 6.1 percent, slightly better than the national rate of 6.7 percent in November. Nashville had the lowest rate at 4.4. Percent. The highest rate was reported in Detroit, where 9.3 percent of workers were unemployed in November.
In the Pittsburgh area, some counties fared better than others before the holiday season. Butler County had the lowest unemployment rate at 5.5 percent. Fayette County had the highest score at 8.3 percent. Allegheny County was 6.5 percent.
The decline in the unemployment rate in the Pittsburgh area is due in large part to a decline in the workforce, Briem said. From November 2019 to November 2020, the Pittsburgh area lost 55,000 workers. “More than anything, the history of the region’s economy is now about the decline in the labor force.”
It remains unclear exactly why the labor force is shrinking. Pandemic restrictions on gatherings, businesses, and education have dramatically changed working conditions.
“I don’t think there’s a reason,” said Briem. “I think there are people who have retired earlier than expected and are out of work. There are problems with childcare and elderly care as people have been forced into these roles and will still be stuck in those roles for the foreseeable future. Students are a large part of the regional workforce. All of this helps to reduce the workforce. “