Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Post-Recession Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh didn't bust during the Great Recession because it didn't experience a boom. That's one way to dismiss the economic success of the region. Other cynics and skeptics are waiting for the rest of the country to catch up and surge past this dying city. Eventually, the Rust Belt loser will show its true colors.

Betting against Pittsburgh, selling it short, is a mistake. It was just named the 9th best place to find a job:

Each of the cities on the list boasts an unemployment rate of 8 percent or lower, below the current national average of 8.9 percent. In determining the list, Ajilon also considered a number of factors, including the diversity of industries in the city, cost of living, the range in size of companies offering employment, and level of higher education among its residents.

I emphasized what I think is the most important metric. Keep that in mind while reading the latest MetroMonitor from Brookings, tracking the recovery during the fourth quarter of 2010. You have to boom in order to bust:

Nearly all the metropolitan areas whose economies have suffered the most since the start of the Great Recession are ones that experienced a large house price boom and bust or that depend heavily on auto or auto parts manufacturing. Nearly all those whose economies have suffered the least rely substantially on government (e.g., Washington and several state capitals), health care (e.g., Baltimore and Pittsburgh), education (e.g., Pittsburgh and Austin), or oil and gas (Denver).

Pittsburgh sports two industries that were notably recession resistant. A third, oil and gas, is on the rise thanks to the Marcellus Shale. The diversity of industry in Pittsburgh compares favorably to any US metro. In fact, Pittsburgh may sport the most resilient economy you can find anywhere.

The pessimists cling to one hope, a slow rate of recovery. Traditionally, Pittsburgh is slow out of the recession's nadir. You have to bust in order to boom. If you think of the early 1980s as Pittsburgh's great bust, then imagine today as the resulting boom:

Chris Briem (Null Space) cautions against over-interpretation. I'd invoke Ben Schulman's "Magic of Failure":

Maybe it's time to look towards Pittsburgh, a magnificent failure that now seems to be a wondrous place to do business in, a place to create in, a place to live. Riding the steep funicular incline to rest atop the city's Mt. Washington neighborhood, and taking in the vista of its Golden Triangle, some could even say a place of magic.

The bump in job creation didn't come out of nowhere or even out of the ashes. If you look, then you'll find impressive economic diversity and a strong foundation for the post-recession world. The workforce is smart and talented. The setting is dramatic and beautiful. The Great Reset favors Pittsburgh.

No comments: