Falling unemployment in Pittsburgh could be result of shrinking workforce

February's jobs report for Pittsburgh and the surrounding metro area showed a decrease in unemployment to 5.8 percent for the month, though the decline may be attributed to a shift in the labor force.

The unemployment rate in the Pittsburgh metro area fell from 6.3 percent in December to six percent in January before hitting 5.8 percent. A shift in the labor force, however, rather than an increase in the number of employed citizens, may be the root of the decline.

In February, the number of unemployed fell by 22,900 year-on-year, while the number of individuals who said they were employed increased by only 4,000. The number of people in the labor force, meanwhile, fell sharply by 18,900.

According to the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, 80 percent of the decline in the unemployment rate can be attributed to shrinkage of the Pittsburgh area's labor force.

Job losses were widespread in the goods production and services sectors - the only area of growth in goods production is mining and logging, which has posted year-on-year gains of hundreds of jobs for the past three months. Both the construction and manufacturing sectors also saw declines.

The largest losses, however, were in the education and health sector. February's jobs report showed no growth over 2013 - job numbers declined year-on-year for the entirety of 2013 and part of 2014.

The Allegheny Institute said lawmakers should work to reduce tax rates and lessen the regulatory burden in order to stimulate economic growth in the area.

"There is plenty of room for improvement at both the state and regional level," the Allegheny Institute said. "Now is the time to get moving with initiatives aimed at boosting the business climate and a free market driven economy. Top down, crony capitalism is not going to produce the lasting, long-term strength the area and state need."