Develop PGH Bulletins: Regional jobs rebound held back by leisure, arts

Below: Bid to frack on Edgar Thomson site goes to court

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This chart, produced by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, shows unemployment rates still much higher than they were in January, though down from their peaks.

This chart, produced by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, shows unemployment rates still much higher than they were in January, though down from their peaks.

Develop PGH Bulletins updates you on the Pittsburgh region's economy, including close coverage of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, City Planning Commission and other important agencies. Please check back frequently, sign up for the Develop PGH newsletter and email rich@publicsource.org with questions, tips or story ideas.

12/4/20: Full jobs recovery depends on leisure rebound

As 2020's end approaches, the Pittsburgh region's unemployment rate is still significantly higher than it was at the year's start, and the economy won't fully recover until the leisure and hospitality sector rebounds, according to an Allegheny Conference on Community Development analysis.

The Southwestern Pennsylvania unemployment rate was around 5% in January. It spiked to 14% in late spring and early summer, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has since declined to around half that level, the conference found in its monthly read on state employment data.

The region gained around 11,900 jobs in October. Still, that leaves a net loss of 86,000 jobs over 12 months.

Construction, healthcare and social assistance, and retail have rebounded smartly. But "the arts, entertainment and recreation sector has a continued erosion in employment since July," according to the conference, a business advocacy organization.

Leisure and hospitality has made up some of its losses, but "has struggled to rebound in the face of government restrictions, reluctant consumers and the virtual shutdown of all business travel," according to the conference analysis. "Until conditions permit a rebound in this sector, a full regional recovery will not occur."

11/25/20: Edgar Thomson drilling fight moving to court

A New Mexico company’s bid to frack on U.S. Steel’s land in North Versailles and East Pittsburgh is now in court following a Tuesday appeal filing.

Merrion Oil & Gas spent millions preparing to drill on the Edgar Thomson Works site, and the East Pittsburgh Zoning Hearing Board has misinterpreted that borough’s code, according to the company’s Notice of Land Use Appeal filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

The Edgar Thomson Steel Works, photographed in January 2020. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

The Edgar Thomson Steel Works, photographed in January 2020. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

The timeline: In December 2017, East Pittsburgh council voted to approve Merrion’s zoning application to conduct drilling-related activities on a sliver of the borough’s land. The actual well sites would be in North Versailles.

In January 2020, the borough council rescinded that approval, arguing that the code allowed for that reversal because the company had not started drilling activity within two years.

Merrion asked the borough’s Zoning Hearing Board to reverse council’s action, but last month the board issued a ruling upholding the rescission.

The company argues in its appeal that in 2018 and 2019, it worked on surveys, core borings and other tests on the site, while working through the Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] permitting process, spending nearly $2.7 million.

Merrion also argues that the rescission provision in the borough's zoning ordinance applies to 45 specified conditional uses of property, but does not apply to oil and gas well sites.

The appeal, authored by attorney Harlan Stone, requests reversal of the Zoning Hearing Board's decision, so the company can pursue drilling-related work on the site. It has not yet been assigned to a judge.

Merrion’s plans would still need the approval of the DEP, which has not yet signed off.

November recap:

News from the City Planning Commission, Urban Redevelopment Authority, Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh and more

House hunters: How an anti-blight law has become a tool for ambitious landlords in Allegheny County

A tale of displacement: A year-long fight against a landlord shows the struggles facing renters forced to move

All on board? Powerful Pittsburgh-area panels are more diverse, but progress is uneven

Mayor: Pittsburgh’s board tilt toward diversity is no accident

Develop PGH archives

A tale of two districts: In Strip and Firstside, the Peduto administration cheers some development, stops other plans

Not over in the Hill: Neighborhood leaders say the Penguins are coming up short

$2.5 million for steam? Allegheny County pact with Peoples raises costs, contracting questions

How fast has UPMC grown? The answer in four charts

October development coverage

Rich Lord is PublicSource’s economic development reporter. He can be reached at rich@publicsource.org or on Twitter @richelord.

Develop PGH has been made possible with funding from The Heinz Endowments.

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