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).