Pittsburgh is undoubtedly the biggest surprise at the top of the standings, but its high position is merited. The Pittsburgh area has added 23,600 private-sector jobs in the past year. And its unemployment rate of 7.9 percent is a full point below the corresponding national rate for February, 8.9 percent.
You can find some of the February employment numbers for metro Pittsburgh here. The data stretch back to 2005. The peak was in 2008 with 1,128,000 nonfarm jobs. 2011 chimes in with 1,112,100, a 2.2% gain over 2010 (good enough for 9th best in the entire country). By my reckoning, Pittsburgh will need a bit over a 1.4% year-over-year rise to match the February zenith posted in 2008.
To summarize, the job growth rate could decline 0.8% and Pittsburgh will still be experiencing full recovery from the Great Recession. Given the recent job growth rate trends, that would appear to be a slam dunk. However, I also expect the unemployment rate to be higher than it was in February 2008 (4.6%). Why? Total labor force will have grown significantly. Blame net inmigration.