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Pittsburgh-region unemployment rate dips to 5%

A sharp pullback in hiring at restaurants and entertainment venues drove declines in the number of jobs in the Pittsburgh region last month, although economists say signs of consumer optimism bode well for employment heading into next year.

The leisure and hospitality sector shed 4,700 workers last month, driving an overall loss of 2,800 jobs in the seven-county metro area, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry said Wednesday.

The unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 5 percent, bringing it on par with the statewide and national unemployment rates for November. It is based on a separate survey of households in which more people reported finding work.

Pittsburgh’s leisure and hospitality industry typically slows down late in the year, and the hiring decline was likely correcting for the huge gains earlier this year, PNC economist Kurt Rankin said.

Even with the November contraction, the city’s restaurant and entertainment scene has grown faster than every other sector in 2015 and continues to be a bright spot for the economy, he said.

“Pittsburgh’s economy does continue to remain stable and relatively healthy, and that’s reflected in consumers willingness to spend,” Rankin said. “Maybe some of those savings on gas prices are finally flowing through.”

There have been signs that people are feeling more optimistic. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index rose 3.9 points in December to 96.5, the highest level since September, and retailers showed decent gains heading into the holiday shopping season. Pittsburgh area stores added 2,000 workers in November and were up 1,200 from a year ago.

“I think there may be some consumer confidence or confidence among the retailers that this is going to be a good year,” said Frank Gamrat, an economist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy. “That retail area was nice and strong.”

Most other sectors were either flat or had seasonal declines. Manufacturers added 400 jobs in November, and mining and logging, which includes natural gas drillers, showed no gains. Construction had the second largest monthly decline of any sector as contractors cut 1,800 workers from payrolls with the end of the building season.

Chris Fleisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or [email protected].


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