Monday, March 19, 2012

Shrinking Cities Mesofacts

Over the weekend, Chris Briem (Null Space) tackled Pittsburgh's impending doom. You can't get there from here. All the companies are moving to better connected metros. Despite a great run of good publicity, Pittsburgh can't shake its Rust Belt past. Of all people, Richard Florida reinforcing these mesofacts:

Austin and San Jose led the United States in job growth last year, according to an analysis of the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics by Aaron Renn, who blogs as The Urbanophile. Houston, Charlotte, and Nashville round out the top five. And both hard-hit Detroit and Pittsburgh make the top 10, along with Salt Lake City, Dallas, and Raleigh.

Emphasis added. The adjective might be meant for just Detroit. That's not how it reads. Unintentional or otherwise, Pittsburgh is misunderstood. Elsewhere in the same article:

The biggest gainers are a mix of knowledge-driven and creative regions (Austin, San Jose, and Raleigh); metros with substantial natural resource economies which have done especially well over the course of the economic crisis (Houston and Oklahoma City); older but transitioning industrial regions like Detroit and Pittsburgh, and America's number one center for popular music, Nashville. Renn notes that the relatively high rate of job growth in Detroit reflects the "pro-cyclical" nature of manufacturing. ...

... Despite the rebound in jobs in Detroit and Pittsburgh, overall, job growth appears to be occurring in metros with lower levels of unionization. The correlation between job growth and unionization was the highest of any in out analysis (-.49).

Detroit remains undistinguished from Pittsburgh. This is the curse of the Rust Belt. Any city in this ill-defined region is an economic disaster.

Manufacturing cycles may explain Detroit. Michigan typically leads the country out of a recession. How do you explain Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh is not a "transitioning industrial region". That transition has been over for quite some time. The pro-cyclical nature of manufacturing is irrelevant to the jobs growth. There is no convenient narrative to justify Pittsburgh's position in the top-10. Pittsburgh better fits in with the likes of Austin or Oklahoma City than it does with transitioning Detroit.

Pittsburgh is busy accelerating away from the gravity of its history, well beyond the grasp of Richard Florida's stock geographic clichés. The Great Recession was shallow and weak in Pittsburgh. There was little in the way of a foreclosure crisis. The recovery has been atypically robust. It's a boom unlike any other in the United States.

1 comment:

Allen said...

"Pittsburgh is busy accelerating away from the gravity of its history, well beyond the grasp of Richard Florida's stock geographic clichés."

That is well said.