Revisions Boost 2011 Job Gains Estimates

When the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) issued the January workforce information release for the Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area (MSA), the household employment data indicated a slowdown in the local economy compared to the brisk pace of 2011, especially the strong growth posted in the fourth quarter.  While this caused a minor stir in the media, of more importance was that January’s data reflected newly re-benchmarked household employment (persons reporting themselves as working) and labor force data for 2011. The updated benchmarks in the household survey data show a more robust labor market in the Pittsburgh MSA in 2011 than was originally reported last year.

Continue reading

What Is To Be Done With Pittsburgh International Airport?

The new terminal at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) was constructed in the early 1990s at the behest of US Airways to strengthen Pittsburgh’s status as the principal “hub” in the airline’s system.  Nearly twenty years later PIT sits grossly underutilized and still has about $450 million in outstanding debt from that construction.  US Airways, after two bankruptcies in the early 2000s, has all but abandoned the airport, dropping from more than 500 flights a day to fewer than 50 by late 2010.  Recently the County Executive has promised to make PIT his top priority in the last year of his term.  While the object is to increase utilization by increasing the number of flights at PIT, how does that happen and how can the airport and surrounding property begin to pay the dividends needed to justify the huge investment in the new terminal?

 

Continue reading

Missing the Housing Boom

Conventional thinking among local leaders is that because the area didn’t “boom” during   the last few years, it didn’t suffer the economic “bust” to the degree some other areas around the country have felt.  Most seem to view this as positive. From a short term perspective that might be true but over the long term the picture is not so rosy.  During the early months of the current recession the Pittsburgh area received substantial national publicity for being the economy that did not “bust”. But missing from these stories is how the region has lagged so far behind the national economy for two decades. One very important indicator of that slower growth is the number of building permits being issued for single family dwellings.

Continue reading

City Pension Reform, 1996-2009

 

Year

Report/Event

Funded Ratio

Recommendations

1996

Competitive Pittsburgh

18%

Pension Bonds, Use Savings from Bond Sale or Debt Restructuring to Reduce Obligations

2000

Pgh21

60%

Seek additional state aid, Establish defined contribution plan for new employees

2004

Initial Act 47 Plan

41%

Make pension payments at beginning of year, ask state to amortize liabilities, re-evaluate pension contribution levels

2004

Mayor’s First Financial Forecast

41%

Close loophole on state pension aid, hold harmless for workforce reductions

2008

Mayor’s Testimony to Senate Urban Affairs and Finance Committees

42%

Revise state aid, prevent spiking, permit defined contribution plans, consolidation of plans into a statewide system

2009

Amended Act 47 Plan

29%

Contribute $10-14 million more per year to pensions, evaluate pension bond funding, no pension enhancements, explore a new, lower cost defined benefit plan for new hires

2009

Mayor’s Plan and Act 44 Provisions

29%

Sell or lease all Parking Authority garages, lots, and meters and put proceeds into pension fund, Higher ed tax, freeze of parking tax at 37.5% with 6.75% used for MMO, permit an additional 2.5% on parking if all garages are sold with 100% of that tax going to MMO

 

 

Will Legacy Costs Force Pittsburgh Into Chapter 9 Bankruptcy?

“…the notion that the second largest city of this Commonwealth would record the unprecedented status of bankruptcy is simply an unacceptable alternative”-

Report of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, April 12, 2004

 

Five years ago when the City was new to Act 47 status and the oversight board was getting its bearings there had to be some inkling of a very real possibility Pittsburgh could find itself in front of a bankruptcy judge.  The City was characterized as being saddled with an outmoded tax structure and out of budgetary gimmicks to meet its spending needs.  Per capita debt was far out of line with other U.S. cities. To forestall a worsening situation, the state had approved the City’s petition for Act 47 status, created a new, separate oversight board, and enacted a tax reform package for the City.   

 

Continue reading

Pittsburgh Encounters Pension Reform and Doesn’t Like It

If the health of Pittsburgh’s three pension plans doesn’t soon improve and if pending municipal pension reform legislation becomes state law, the City will see its oversight and administration of the plans transferred to the state and all future employees will become members of a new, uniform system of pension recipients.

 

Continue reading