Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Joblessness in W.Pa. rises to 7.1%, but more at work

By Thomas Olson Pittsburgh Tribune Review

The Pittsburgh region reached near-record employment in June, but its unemployment rate increased to 7.1 percent anyway, the state said in a report issued Tuesday.
The seven-county jobless rate was 0.3 of a percentage point higher than May’s rate of 6.8 percent — the largest increase since February 2010, according to the state Center for Workforce Information & Analysis, based on a monthly survey of residents.

At the same time, employers in the region added 12,600 jobs in June, and 15,400 since June 2011. That brought the Pittsburgh region’s job count to 1,160,800, the highest level since February 2001, when it was a record 1,163,300, said the agency, citing a survey of employers.

“Employment went up, but the labor force went up even faster,” said Matthew Marlin, an economics professor at Duquesne University. The labor force, composed of those working or looking for work, jumped by 9,000 since May, and by 24,200 since June 2011.

“The report tells me more people are optimistic and went out to look for a job,” Marlin said. “A number of discouraged workers apparently became encouraged workers.”

The region had 89,200 unemployed residents last month, which was 4,600 more than in May.
The seven-county region consists of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

Monday, July 30, 2012

New High-Rise in Downtown Pittsburgh Means Jobs, Revitalization

The followeing is a guest submission by Mike Mikus, Director, Consumer Energy Alliance Mid-Atlantic

As the driver of the Keystone State natural gas boom, the energy industry has continuously pumped life into the Pittsburgh region’s economy and job market. With the recent announcement that Oxford Development plans to build a multi-million dollar high-rise downtown, the Marcellus Shale industry once again promises to be a valuable and vital contributor to the city’s revitalization efforts.

Developers are eager to build projects, such as this “350 fifth” tower – located on the block between Fifth and Forbes Avenue – as the availability of desirable office space in downtown Pittsburgh continues to wane. Securing a long-term lease with a large company – particularly with a key player in the Marcellus Shale industry – is a major key to the development’s success, and big name energy companies, such as Chevron and Shell, are rumored to be targets. Landing a big anchor to occupy a sizable chunk of the space would allow the project to move forward.

By rejuvenating the vast, yet mostly vacant building that will be “350 fifth” – the proposed $238 million skyscraper – with much-needed and valuable retail space, the project will prove to be a positive for both Pittsburgh residents and the overall downtown area, alike. According to Oxford Development, the project is expected to create hundreds of jobs, including 450 construction jobs and 2,500 permanent jobs, if the plan is approved as is.

However, as city officials are looking to encourage a renaissance of development downtown – beginning with the proposed new high-rise – the drilling ban that’s currently in place threatens to scare off such sought-after tenants. Along with local industries, Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl has expressed concerns over the negative effect the drilling ban has on the desire to relocate within city limits.

With so much at stake for the city, policymakers should reconsider the ban on drilling that could cost our city sizeable investments, hundreds of jobs and significant economic development opportunities and growth. Pittsburgh cannot afford to lose out on the impact this development will have on the local economy, job market and widespread revitalization efforts.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Business-led program for students with disabilities cited for high job-placement rate

PITTSBURGH, July 27, 2012 – The UPMC Mercy Project SEARCH program, which helps high school students with disabilities become valued employees in meaningful competitive jobs, received an Employment Outcome Award for its class of 2010-11 at the 6th International Project SEARCH Conference held in Austin, Texas, July 24-27.  Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania implements the program which was cited for achieving a job-placement rate of more than 60 percent. It was one of more than 70 Project SEARCH programs across the country that received Employment Outcome Awards.

            The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program is a unique, business- led, one year school-to-work program for students with disabilities, grade 12 or higher, who have completed their high school academic requirements, but have deferred taking a diploma that takes place entirely at the workplace. Hosted at UPMC Mercy and UPMC Passavant Hospitals, the program has helped over 30 Allegheny County students obtain employment.
            “Project SEARCH changes lives and Goodwill is proud to be an integral part of this outstanding program.  We congratulate the Project SEARCH staff, teams, and students of UPMC Mercy Project SEARCH on this award,” said Holly Opatick, Director of Transition Services at Goodwill.  The cornerstone of the program is total immersion in the organization, with students reporting to the host business, learning employability skills and marketable job skills, while participating in three job-training rotations during the school year.

            “In addition, Project SEARCH brings about positive cultural change within the work site organization by overcoming stereotypes and helping employees to see students with disabilities as unique individuals who can make real contributions to the organization and the greater community.”

Since its inception in 1996, Project SEARCH has grown from one original program site at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center to over 200 across the United States and Canada, England, Scotland, and Australia. Project SEARCH's primary objective is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities.

UPMC Project SEARCH Partners: UPMC, the County of Allegheny Department of Human Services Office of Intellectual Disability (OID), Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pittsburgh region's jobless rate holds steady

The unemployment rate in the seven-county Pittsburgh region held steady in May at 6.8 percent, the same rate recorded in March and April, the state Department of Labor and Industry reported today.

The labor climate locally continued to outperform the state and the nation as a whole, with the May jobless rate at 7.4 percent in Pennsylvania and 8.2 percent nationwide.
In May a year ago, the jobless rate in the Pittsburgh region was 7.3 percent.

After smoothing out seasonal spikes in hiring, the labor department reported nonfarm jobs in the region fell by 2,500 last month, the second straight monthly decline.

Unadjusted figures showed employers in the region added 7,800 jobs in May as the goods-producing sector gained 1,500 positions and the service sector added 6,300.
Among goods-producing industries, construction added 1,800 jobs, the smallest May increase since 2006. Compared to May 2011, construction jobs were off by 4,100.

Manufacturing jobs fell by 400 in May following three months of gains.

In the service sector, which showed the weakest bump up in May since 2005, professional and business services posted a strong gain of 1,600 jobs while education and health services lost 5,000.

Leisure and hospitality added 6,100 jobs and local government gained 1,200. But federal and state government trimmed 1,100 jobs.

Among the seven counties in the region, Butler had the lowest jobless rate in May at 6.1 percent and Fayette had the highest at 8.6 percent.

Across Pennsylvania, unemployment rates ranged from 5.5 percent in Centre County to 10.5 percent in Cameron County.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

U.S. Chamber of Commerce touts Pittsburgh's job creation

By Tracie Mauriello / Post-Gazette Washington Bureau    
WASHINGTON -- Pennsylvania doesn't appear anywhere on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's top 10 lists of exporters, job creators or producers of college graduates, but travel to the southwest corner and you'll find a center of innovation so strong that it's the national business group's best role model for job creation.

The Chamber released its findings Wednesday in two reports issued at the conservative business group's annual Jobs Summit. One of the reports highlights Pittsburgh and Denver, cities that over the past two years had more job growth than the country's other metropolitan areas with populations of more than 1 million.

Pittsburgh showed 3.9 percent job growth and Denver showed 3.8 percent, while the average for the other 49 largest metropolitan areas is 2.8 percent.

The Chamber attributed the cities' success to networking and business partnerships, but the cities have one more thing in common: a history of hosting huge conventions that put the eyes of the world on them.

Denver hosted the 2008 Democratic National Convention; Pittsburgh, the 2009 G-20 world economic summit.

"You simply cannot put a dollar figure on the kind of marketing that occurred. ... Everybody knows about Denver now," Mayor Michael Hancock said during a panel discussion Wednesday.

Likewise, the G-20 helped raise Pittsburgh's profile as a convention destination and as an innovative city that transformed itself after the decline of the steel industry.

"It enabled us to show off our city, to show off some of the things we have, and we did ... gain some business growth from that," Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said. It was worth the disruptions caused by road closures and security measures surrounding the summit, he said.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/us-chamber-touts-pittsburghs-job-creation-640310

Friday, June 1, 2012

Manpower Group: 10 toughest jobs to fill

The hardest jobs to fill globally are skilled trades workers, engineers and sales representatives, according to Manpower Group’s survey of nearly 40,000 employers across 41 countries and territories. Skilled trades and engineers have become harder to find since last year, as demand outstrips supply. Sales representatives’ continued presence in the top 10 is a result of companies continuing to seek out experienced sales people who can help drive revenue growth.

Jobs most in demand in 2012
Jobs most in demand in 2011
1. Skilled Trades Workers
1. Technicians
2. Engineers
2. Sales Representatives
3. Sales Representatives
3. Skilled Trades Workers
4. Technicians
4. Engineers
5. Drivers
5. Laborers
6. Laborers
6. Management/ Executives
7. IT Staff
7. Accounting & Finance Staff
8. Accounting & Finance Staff
8. IT Staff
9. Chefs/Cooks
9. Production Operators
10. Management/Executives
10. Secretaries, PAs, Admin Assistants, & Office Support Staff

Talent supply and demand issues are generally more acute in the Asia Pacific and the Americas region than in EMEA. Globally, employers having the most difficulty finding the right people to fill jobs are located in Japan (81%), Brazil (71%), Bulgaria (51%), Australia (50%), USA (49%), India (48%), New Zealand (48%), Taiwan (47%), Panama (47%), Romania (45%), Argentina (45%), Mexico (43%) and Germany (42%). Talent shortages are least problematic in Ireland and the Netherlands. The percentage of employers reporting difficulties has remained relatively consistent over time, however India has displayed volatility where the proportion dropped 19 percentage points since last year, but jumped 51 percentage points the year before that. The number of employers struggling to fill roles in France has jumped 9 percentage points whereas it has dropped 15 percentage points in Italy.

Regionally, employers in the Americas are having more trouble filling jobs than the global average, with 41% of employers reporting difficulty filling positions due to lack of available talent. This figure represents the highest proportion of employers reporting difficulty since the start of the global economic downturn in 2008, and a 4% increase over last year’s survey. Despite this, employers are less concerned about the impact talent shortages have on key stakeholders with more than half (58%) believing the talent shortage will have little or no impact, up from 38% in 2011.

For the first time in the survey’s seven year history, employers in the Americas report engineering roles as the most difficult to fill across the region, up from fourth last year. While the role does not top the list in any individual country, it ranks second in Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica and the United States. Employers in Brazil (71%), the USA (49%) and Panama (47%) are having the most difficulty finding staff. Year-over-year, employers report greater difficulty filling vacancies in seven of the 10 countries. The most common strategy implemented by employers in the Americas to address talent shortages is additional training and development for existing staff, up from 32% in 2011 to 37% this year, and considerably more than the global average of 25%.

View the whole report here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pittsburgh MSA Unemployment Rate Steady At 6.8%

Pittsburgh’s rate was still below both Pennsylvania’s rate (7.4%), and the United States’ rate (8.1%), which were each down one-tenth of a percentage point in April. Over the year, the Pittsburgh MSA’s unemployment rate was down half of a percentage point, the same as Pennsylvania’s movement from last April, while the national rate was down nine-tenths. Among the commonwealth’s 14 MSAs, the Pittsburgh MSA tied for the fifth lowest unemployment rate in April. Within the Pittsburgh MSA, Butler County (6.1%) had the lowest rate while Fayette County (8.5%) had the highest rate. Among Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, unemployment rates ranged from 5.3 percent in Montour County to 11.7 percent in Cameron County.

Seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs in the Pittsburgh MSA were down 1,300 in April. The April decline followed two months of increases. Pennsylvania’s nonfarm job count also dropped in April, down 600 to 5,727,700. Jobs in the Pittsburgh MSA were up 16,400 (1.4%) from April 2011, twice the Pennsylvania growth rate of 0.7% over the year.

April Industry Detail (Not Seasonally Adjusted)

In April, Pittsburgh MSA goods-producing jobs rose by 2,600 to 144,100.
The majority of the increase was due to construction, up 2,400 as spring hiring began. Over the year, local goods producing jobs were down 1,700 with the vast majority of the decline attributable to construction. Mining & logging was up 1,200 from last April, and has shown over-the-year increases of at least 1,000 since April 2010.

Pittsburgh MSA service providers added 8,200 jobs in April. The largest increase was a typical spring leisure & hospitality gain, up 4,600 jobs. Education & health services showed a decline of 500 due to a record April drop in health care & social assistance that was driven by social assistance. Professional & business services added 2,200 jobs, aided in part by an increase of 1,000 in administrative & waste services, which includes landscapers. Over the year, education & health services (+8,700) and professional & business services (+3,200) recorded the greatest job growth, while government (-3,400) experienced the largest employment decline.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Railroad companies seeking improvements, 15,000 new hires

By Tom Fontaine
Published: Saturday, May 5, 2012, 9:12 p.m.Don Despines turned to railroading a decade ago after earning a college accounting degree and working several sales jobs.

"I didn't feel comfortable raising a child on commission," said Despines, 34, who lives in Economy, five miles from one of the region's largest railyards in Conway. He said steady pay and attractive retirement benefits lured him to the career.

The nation's seven major railroads hope such selling points will help them hire a combined 15,000 people this year, almost a quarter of them military veterans and many from other professions, according to the Washington-based Association of American Railroads that represents the major freight haulers and Amtrak. Smaller, short-line and regional railroads intend to hire thousands more.

"If they add any jobs in Conway, it would be a blessing. If they add 500, I might tap dance on Route 65," said Donna Fath, a bartender at a VFW that sits across the highway from Norfolk Southern's sprawling Conway Terminal in Beaver County, once the nation's largest rail yard. It employs about 1,400.

Norfolk Southern intends to hire 2,800 people this year. It did not say how many would be based at Conway. On average, 60 to 80 trains a day pass through the giant yard that stretches four miles along the upper side of the Ohio River. It is also unknown how many people will be hired locally at CSX, but the state's No. 2 hauler hired 4,000 people last year and plans to hire more than 3,000 this year.

Railroads plan to spend a record $13 billion of their money on system improvements, the railroad association said. A PennDOT report released in December 2010 said Pennsylvania's railroads planned at least $376.6 million of work in the following three years.
"We can't say (railroads) are poised to regain their previously dominant position, but their long period of decline appears to be over and they are holding their own," said Noel Perry, managing director and senior consultant at Freight Transportation Research Associates in Nashville, Ind.

Railroad employment is on pace to rise for the second year in a row. It averaged about 232,000 through this year's first three months and 229,000 employees for all of 2011, up from 216,525 in 2010, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

It would be just the 12th time since 1947 that average annual railroad employment increased, and just the fourth time that railroads posted two or more years in a row of increased employment. Railroads endured a 22-year skid between 1952 and 1973 in which employment dropped every year, and an 18-year slide between 1980 and 1997.
Perry said rail freight haulers have improved service and profit margins over the past decade, allowing them to put more money toward infrastructure improvements and training of new employees. "As the economy grows, most railroads will be able to grow along with it," he said.

The booming Marcellus shale natural gas industry has created an emerging rail market in Pennsylvania, which has more railroads -- 55 -- than any other state, said Joe Gerdes, executive of the Harrisburg-based Keystone State Association of Railroads.
"It's been a godsend here, particularly to short-line railroads," Gerdes said.

Gerdes said Wellsboro & Corning Railroad -- which operates a 35-mile line between Tioga County in northcentral Pennsylvania and Steuben County in New York -- hauled about 300 carloads of scrap metal a year before the Marcellus industry arrived. Now it's moving thousands of carloads of sand and water from drilling sites, Gerdes said.

Wellsboro & Corning received a $700,000 state grant this year for line improvements. It was among $23.2 million in state grants doled out for rail projects, including $7.4 million in Western Pennsylvania. It was the lowest total since the state awarded $14.3 million in grants in 2007, PennDOT said. Major railroads aren't eligible for federal funding for capital projects, Association of American Railroads spokeswoman Holly Arthur said.

Overall, the railroad association said, major railroads hauled 8.1 million carloads of freight in the first 16 weeks of this year, down 0.7 percent from the same period a year ago and almost 7 percent below the same period in 2007 -- before the recession began.

A mild winter and low natural gas prices dampened demand for coal, which fills more than two of every five rail freight cars. Grain shipments also tumbled. Increased shipments of petroleum products, automobiles, metal, lumber, and truck trailers and shipping containers -- also known as intermodal traffic -- helped offset the losses.

Shipping by barge increased 6.9 percent during the first three months of this year compared with the same period a year ago. Shipping by truck increased by 2.7 percent in March compared with March 2011.
Of the new hires at major railroads, about 3,000 are planned because of growth, while the remaining 12,000 are because of attrition, including a wave of retirements that is expected to continue and to open up tens of thousands of jobs in years to come, Arthur said. Train operations and maintenance jobs offer the most opportunities, she said.

Bill Thompson of Imperial, a 37-year railroad worker, is retiring this week. A locomotive engineer turned full-time union rep, Thompson estimated that more than 60 percent of engineers -- including some with decades on the job -- "have no idea when they're coming or going" because they work on-call.

"You've got to be ready to work at a moment's notice seven days a week. If you want all your weekends off or evenings or days off, then railroading is not for you," he said. "This job has been very good for my family, but it's a tough lifestyle."

Despines, the salesman who switched to a railroad career, started at Norfolk Southern as a conductor trainee and became a locomotive engineer in about two years. He mostly runs trains between Conway and Toledo, Ohio.

"You're away from home a lot and you're always on call. The security of the job and the pension we have is what keeps me there," Despines said. The Association of American Railroads says average wages and benefits total $107,000 at major railroads.
If you're a military veteran, the railroads want you.

Railroads have long hired large numbers of military veterans. Arthur said their "dedication, leadership and strategic thinking" abilities make them well-suited for the job. Veterans make up about 20 percent of the work force at CSX and 14 percent of it at Norfolk Southern, spokespeople said.

One sat in the bar at the Conway VFW late Thursday afternoon: Eddie Keller, 80, a Korean War veteran who worked at the Conway yard for 43 years. He built a home just up the hill from the rail yard, well within earshot of the clanging, ringing, rumbling and whistling.
"People have asked if the noise ever bothers me. It never has. It's the sound of people working," Keller said, adding he'd gladly put up with more racket if it meant more jobs for the area.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Over 61,000 People Were Helped By Goodwill During 2011

PITTSBURGH, April 10, 2012 – Services and programs provided by Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania helped 61,308 individuals last year, according to the agency’s recently released annual report for 2011. Over 40,000 benefitted from a variety of community services and more than 11,000 received job-related services through PA CareerLink. Other major service areas were education, employment placement, and transitional and youth services.

            One of the area’s largest and most diverse human services agencies, Goodwill SWPA also reported that it recycled 26,157,148 pounds of donated goods during 2011, including 2,519,045 pounds of computers and E-waste items; 4,708,715 pounds of recyclables such as aluminum, plastic, glass and newspapers collected at the Goodwill-operated Fayette County Recycling Center; 18,685,004 pounds of retail recyclables such as books, shoes, toys and housewares; and 244,384 pounds of toner containers.

            Total revenues for Goodwill SWPA in 2011 were $47,071,593 compared to $46,674,358 in 2010. Expenses for program services and supporting services for 2011 were $45,163,573, resulting in a consolidated change in net assets of $1,908,020, compared to 2010 expenses of $40,802,523 and a consolidated change in net assets of $5,871,835.

Monday, March 12, 2012

February Job Report Shows Positive Trends

The jobs outlook improved once again in February as both new employment and the overall labor force rose for the third straight month. Employers added over a quarter of a million private sector jobs, beating conservative Wall Streetestimates that called for a 210,000 increase.

Private-sector employment grew by 233,000 jobs, 227,000 of which consist of nonfarm payroll employment. Employment rose in professional and businesses services (+82,000) with temp services accounting for just over half that figure at 45,000. Health care and social assistance also posted gains (+61,000), as did leisure and hospitality (+44,000), and manufacturing industries (+31,000).

The unemployment rate is holding steady at 8.3 percent after falling in recent months. The long-term unemployment numbers, tracking those who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more, fell slightly from 5.5 million to 5.4 million. The long-term unemployed account for over 42% of the total unemployment figure.

One of the most promising indicators lies within the U-6 rate, which declined to 14.9 percent, the lowest reading in more than three years. Often referred to as the “underemployment rate”, the U-6 rate doesn’t just measure the percentage of people in the U.S. that are unemployed — the figure most often quoted in the media, which is sometimes called the U-3 rate — it also tracks two other very important groups. 

The U-6 rate also accounts for those who are marginally attached to the work force — unemployed people who, for whatever reason, have not looked for work in the 4 weeks prior to the survey, whether due to school attendance, family responsibilities, or because they simply gave up looking for work.  It also tracks those who would prefer full-time employment, but due to economic circumstances are working part-time jobs instead.

According to Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “This month's report makes another addition to a solid and improving trend in what has been the most important missing piece in the economic recovery so far: conditions in the job market.”

Another interesting point lies within the December and January job numbers, which were both recently revised. December’s final job tally rose from 203,000 additional jobs to 223,000, a 20,000 job difference. January’s results were even more drastic, going from 243,000 estimated jobs to 284,000. So overall, an additional 60,000 jobs that were not initially counted have now been added to the totals, making February’s increases that much more significant.

Friday, February 3, 2012

U.S. adds 243,000 jobs in January

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 243,000 in January, and the unemployment rate
decreased to 8.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job growth was widespread in the private sector, with large employment gains in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing. Government employment changed little over the month.

Private-sector employment grew by 257,000, with the largest employment gains in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing. Government employment was little changed over the month.

Professional and business services
increase occurred in employment services (+33,000). Job gains also occurred in accounting and
bookkeeping (+13,000) and in architectural and engineering services (+7,000).

Over the month, employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 44,000, primarily in food services
and drinking places (+33,000). Since a recent low in February 2010, food services has added 487,000

In January, health care employment continued to grow (+31,000). Within the industry, hospitals and
ambulatory care services each added 13,000 jobs.

Wholesale trade
May 2010, wholesale trade has added 144,000 jobs.

Employment in retail trade continued to trend up in January. Job gains in department stores (+19,000),
health and personal care stores (+7,000), and automobile dealers (+7,000) were partially offset by losses

in clothing and clothing accessory stores (-14,000). Since an employment trough in December 2009,
retail trade has added 390,000 jobs.

In January, employment in information declined by 13,000, including a loss of 8,000 jobs in the motion
picture and sound recording industry.

In the goods-producing sector, manufacturing added 50,000 jobs. Nearly all of the increase occurred in durable goods manufacturing, with job growth in fabricated metal products (+11,000), machinery
(+11,000), and motor vehicles and parts (+8,000). Durable goods manufacturing has added 418,000 jobs over the past 2 years.

Employment in construction increased by 21,000 in January, following a gain of 31,000 in the previous
month. Over the past 2 months, nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 30,000 jobs.

Since a recent low in October 2009, mining employment has expanded by 172,000.

276,000 jobs, with declines in local government; state government, excluding education; and the U.S.
Postal Service.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged in January. The
manufacturing workweek increased by 0.3 hour to 40.9 hours, and factory overtime increased by 0.1
hour to 3.4 hours.
employment changed little in January. Over the past 12 months, the sector has lost
added 10,000 jobs in January, with most of the gain in support activities for mining (+8,000).
employment increased by 14,000 over the month. Since a recent employment low in
continued to add jobs in January (+70,000). About half of the