New Initiative to track regional workforce diversity finds that Southwestern Pennsylvania’s workforce is the least diverse among benchmark regions
A report released today found that minority workers in southwestern Pennsylvania claim a much smaller share of the workforce than minorities in any of the 14 peer regions to which the Greater Pittsburgh area was compared. Minorities hold their smallest share of jobs in several local industries offering the highest incomes, while claiming their largest share of jobs in industries providing some of the lowest incomes.
The report, Behind the Times: The Limited Role of Minorities in the Greater Pittsburgh Workforce, is based on an analysis of workforce-related data collected by the Pittsburgh Regional Workforce Diversity Indicators Initiative, a group of community organizations who have convened to conduct workforce diversity research, raise awareness of key issues and mobilize a regional response.
The Workforce Diversity Indicators Initiative, led by Vibrant Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Today, includes representatives from RAND Corporation, Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, University of Pittsburgh Center for Race and Social Problems and University of Pittsburgh University Center for Social and Urban Research. The Initiative will track regional workforce diversity over time, monitoring local progress against other benchmark regions.
Diversity in the labor force impacts a region’s economy, businesses and citizens. The lack of diversity and inclusion threatens the supply of workers ready to fill current and future job openings, segregates the benefits of gainful employment and diminishes the region’s appeal to companies looking to relocate or expand. A lack of diversity also makes it difficult to attract talent of all races and ethnicities to the region.
The report is the first of an ongoing series that examines the role of minority workers in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The first round of analyses focuses on workforce participation, job sector employment and worker income.
The report pinpoints a southwestern Pennsylvania workforce struggling to resemble the rest of metropolitan America. For example:
- African American, Asian and Hispanic workers hold 11 percent of the jobs in the Pittsburgh MSA – the smallest share seen across the 15 U.S. metropolitan regions examined in the report. Among those 15 regions, minority workers claim an average of 25 percent of the workforce, which is more than double the share they claim in the Pittsburgh MSA.
- Minorities overall hold 20 percent of the jobs in administrative and support services, the most diverse industry sector in the region. Minorities who work those jobs–which include office work, maintenance, and waste disposal– earn average incomes that are among the lowest reported across all industry sectors in the region.
- Minority workers in the Pittsburgh MSA are least likely to work in several of the highest-paying industries in the region. African American, Asian and Hispanic workers account for only 5 percent of the jobs in the mining, oil and gas industries, which comprise the job sector generating the highest average monthly incomes in the region.
- African American, Asian and Hispanic workers report significantly varied experiences in the local workforce. Several industries in which Asian workers are most highly concentrated have the highest average worker incomes, such as the professional, scientific and technology sector. Hispanic workers earn less than whites in most job sectors, but their incomes are higher than white co-workers in certain sectors such as mining, gas and oil, education, health care, and in hotel and food service jobs.
- African Americans are the only minority workers with average incomes lower than their white co-workers in every industry sector. Working-age African Americans have the lowest rate of employment of any racial and ethnic group.
“The rebirth of southwestern Pennsylvania’s economy has been remarkable and its resilience during the most recent recession is well known,” says Douglas Heuck, director of Pittsburgh Today. “But, as the data suggests, the region has a lot of work to do to achieve the level of diversity in the workforce which many see as necessary to sustain economic growth and prosperity.”
The lack of diversity in the southwestern Pennsylvania workforce has long been an issue. Not surprisingly, it is also an issue in the overall Pittsburgh MSA population, which is among the least diverse of any U.S. metropolitan region. 86.4 percent of the general population is white. Minorities here claim a smaller share of the population than they do in any of the benchmark regions. Notably, 3.8 percent of the region’s population is foreign born, which also ranks at the bottom of benchmark regions.
“There are more than 20,000 open positions on any given day in our region, per the ImaginePittsburgh.com job aggregator,” said Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. “Demand is only going to grow. Baby Boomers are retiring, leaving jobs open, and this trend is likely to continue. To meet employers’ workforce needs and keep our regional economy strong, we will need to add workers, including attracting them from other parts of the country where populations are more diverse than here. The diversity of our region will increase as we work to attract skilled workers. To be successful in these efforts, we need to know where we stand today. The report and metric being released today are a good first step.”
A Regional Response
Regional efforts to address the issue were led by Vibrant Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization started in 2010, whose origins trace back to years of town hall meetings organized by regional business, foundation, civic, education, and political leaders who searched for ways to address diversity issues related to economic development.
Vibrant Pittsburgh organized the Workforce Diversity Indicators Initiative in 2014 to investigate diversity issues in the Pittsburgh MSA labor force and to promote a collaborative, evidence-based regional approach to improving diversity and inclusion. Melanie Harrington, President and CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh, believes that “the Diversity Indicators Initiative is critical to create a broad scale awareness of the regional economic opportunity that is possible if we attract, retain and elevate a diversity of talent.” “It is very encouraging to work in partnership with organizations that understand that diversity and inclusion is an economic imperative and can be, if we work together, and economic driver for the region.”
The first report is part of Phase I, which analyzes available data related to workforce diversity, benchmarks local data against a set of peer regions, and identifies key issues.
Phase II will include surveys and other qualitative methods to explore industry sectors and companies who demonstrate progress in diversifying their payrolls; it will also examine the experiences of diverse workers.
Phase III will identify collaborative regional solutions to make southwestern Pennsylvania a place better known for diversity and inclusion rather than the lack of it.
Future data releases from the Workforce Diversity Indicators Initiative will be placed on the Pittsburgh Today website as well. For questions about the Workforce Diversity Indicators Initiative, contact Vibrant Pittsburgh at 412-281-8600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.