'Pros and techs' gaining on 'meds and eds' in Pittsburgh region

| Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

In terms of job growth, the Pittsburgh region's long-dominant education and health care sectors have a new challenger: professional, technical and financial services, recent employment data show.

“Eds and meds” institutions still employ the biggest slice of the seven-county region's 1.18 million jobs, say economic experts, but “pros and techs” are gaining.

“The leadership in job growth has changed from eds and meds to financial services and professional and technical services,” said Jake Haulk, economist and president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a think tank in Castle Shannon.

Together, eds and meds employ more than 253,000 people in Western Pennsylvania, according to data from the state Center for Workforce Information & Analysis. That's well above the 151,000 who work at professional, technical and financial employers.

But in the last two years, employment at eds and meds institutions has fallen by about 800. Meanwhile, professional, technical and financial service company employment has ballooned by about 8,500 jobs.

Rob MacDonald, 40, is one of those 8,500 newly employed. He landed a job at Bank of New York Mellon Corp. as senior counsel in mid-October. So, he's counted as a “pro” working in financial services.

“I was happy to find out I got the job. I was ecstatic,” said MacDonald, who lives in Bethel Park with his wife, also an attorney, and their young son.

MacDonald, a military veteran and former federal prosecutor, and family were living in Las Vegas last year when they decided to move back East. He has family in Cleveland, and his wife has family in Pittsburgh.

“As soon as I did a Pittsburgh job search, BNY Mellon was the first corporation that popped up,” he said.

In BNY Mellon's case, job growth in recent years was part of a commitment it made in 2007. When the former Mellon Financial Corp. agreed to merge with Bank of New York Co., it vowed to add at least 1,000 jobs in the Pittsburgh area to its then 6,100 by the end of 2010.

BNY Mellon reached the 1,000-job goal by mid-2010. Today, the financial services company employs about 7,600 people in the region.

“Pittsburgh's importance to BNY Mellon is rooted in this region's excellent quality of life and strong labor pool,” said Lisa Peters, chief human resources officer.

“The attractiveness of the region to talented professionals like Rob MacDonald is a good illustration of why we're so positive about our continued significant presence in Pittsburgh.”

PNC Financial Services Group's employment in Western Pennsylvania has jumped from about 6,000 in 2007 to well over 8,000 these days. The bank currently has 261 open positions its trying to fill, said PNC spokesman Fred Solomon.

“PNC added more customers, more ways to bank and enhanced risk management over the last five years, so we invested locally in staff to provide the right level of service,“ he said.

Many of those local jobs also stemmed from PNC acquisitions in recent years, especially the December 2008 purchase of Cleveland-based National City Corp., which was the nation's 10-largest bank.

The “pros and techs” sectors consist of positions such as attorneys, accountants, engineers, computer programmers, management consultants and others, according to official definitions used by the Census Bureau.

The major accounting firm Deloitte, for instance, had 200 open positions in Western Pennsylvania last month, said spokesman Clay Perschall. The regional office of Deloitte, located Downtown, employs about 600.

“If the economy is growing, companies need accounting and bookeeping services,” said Haulk of the region's comparatively strong recovery.

“And I would think management and technical consulting would be strong because of this area's Marcellus shale activity,” he said.

Eds and meds have “not necessarily stopped growing forever,” said the economist.

The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University had a combined 1,000 job openings in November, according to the state Department of Labor & Industry. In addition, UPMC and West Penn Allegheny Health System had a combined nearly 1,050.

“But we will keep tabs on this over the next six months to see if it continues,” said Haulk.

Thomas Olson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or tolson@tribweb.com.

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