Falling Behind the Times of Race and Inclusion

Issue Date: 
March 16, 2015

The lack of diversity in Southwestern Pennsylvania’s labor force diminishes the region’s appeal to organizations looking to expand as well as to professionals who would otherwise consider relocating within the area. This is one of the key findings of a report released recently on racial inclusion in the region’s workforce. 

Behind the Times

The report, titled Behind the Times: The Limited Role of Minorities in the Greater Pittsburgh Workforce offers a broad overview of African American, Asian, and Hispanic participation in Southwestern Pennsylvania’s labor force. It was conducted by the Workforce Diversity Indicators Initiative, a coalition of area organizations convened to examine workforce diversity in the region, including Vibrant Pittsburgh, PittsburghToday, the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social and Urban Research, and Pitt’s Center on Race and Social Problems.  

Behind the Times provides data on income levels, minority employment statistics, and statistical comparisons with other major metropolitan areas in the United States. Additionally, it examines some of the root causes of racial disparities in the region’s labor force and offers examples of efforts that are currently being made by local organizations to improve racial inclusion. 

“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 PittsburghToday. “But, as the data suggest, 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.”

Key findings in the Behind the Times report include: 

Minority Workforce Participation: African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics hold just 11 percent of the jobs in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area. In comparison, these minority groups account for 25 percent of the workforce in 15 U.S. metropolitan areas of comparable population and size. 

Jobs and Income: Minority groups account for only 5 percent of the jobs in the mining, oil and gas industry, the highest-paying sector in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The highest concentrations of minority workers are found in the administrative support services and the accommodation/food service industry sectors, two of the five lowest-paying industries in the region. 

Differences Among Minority Workers: African Americans, the largest minority population in the region, have the lowest rate of employment; nearly 18 percent of African Americans in the region report frequent difficulties in paying monthly bills for basic needs. Asian Americans possess the highest rate of employment of any racial and ethnic group, including Caucasians. While Hispanic Americans earn less than Caucasians in the majority of job sectors, their average incomes are higher than their White counterparts in a few key industries. 

The Road Ahead: The level of diversity in the region’s labor force has risen by two percent since 2002, which is statistically on par with other comparable regions. Coordinated efforts by community organizations have proven effective in attracting minority professionals from outside the region. 

The Behind the Times report says the region’s diversity issues are pervasive and deeply entrenched, suggesting that an ongoing coordinated strategy involving regional leaders and organizations is needed. Among other examples of positive steps forward, the report highlights programs sponsored by local organizations intended to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields to minority students. It also discusses efforts to attract and retain minority workers from outside the region in order to grow the minority population and workforce. 

The report is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Program’s Quarterly Workforce Indicators. The program combines U.S. Census Bureau and state-gathered statistics to produce comprehensive data sets on wages and employment. Additional data and statistics from the report are available on the PittsburghToday Web site http://pittsburghtoday.org/special_reports.html in the special reports section.