Share This Page

Economic analyst: Western Pennsylvania region 'on a roll'

| Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 11:27 p.m.

More Western Pennsylvanians should find work in 2014 as the manufacturing, construction and related sectors gain speed in and around Pittsburgh, an economist predicted on Thursday.

“I think our region is still on a roll,” said Stuart Hoffman, a senior vice president at PNC Financial Services Group Inc. who joined two other executives at a Downtown luncheon to forecast more robust economic trends across the country. “I think this region is poised to fully participate the next couple years in national growth dynamics.”

PNC expects about 15,000 jobs to materialize this year in the seven-county Pittsburgh metropolitan area, where unemployment should fall from about 6.7 percent to about 6.2 percent, Hoffman said. Jobs should appear “pretty much across the board,” he added, including in the energy, engineering, retail and hospitality sectors.

The area added about 12,000 jobs in the first 11 months of 2013; figures for December were not yet available, Hoffman said.

He found more glimmers of hope in a “tremendous amount of construction projects” and projected home price increases of 2 percent to 3 percent over the next two years in Western Pennsylvania.

Home sales in the Pittsburgh region climbed to 21,070 in the first 11 months of 2013, up from 18,957 in the year-earlier period, according to the West Penn Multi-List agency.

“The problems in the real estate sector are largely behind us,” said James Glassman, a senior U.S. economist at J.P. Morgan Chase and another speaker at the luncheon and panel discussion.

The Pittsburgh chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth hosted the regular session in the Fairmont Pittsburgh, drawing about 150 lawyers, financial professionals and other business people.

Though Pittsburgh largely escaped the collapse of the housing market in 2006 and 2007, Glassman said, home prices nationally have recovered about half of their losses since then. A glut of housing over the past several years is easing and should help fuel a resurgence in construction, he added.

Overall gross domestic product should increase about 3 percent this year, topping the 1.8 percent and 2.2 percent growth rates in 2013 and 2012, respectively, said Bernie Schoenfeld, a vice president at BNY Mellon Wealth Management. The 2014 projection includes a 3.5 percent increase in industrial production.

“The U.S. is beginning to stabilize to accelerate in growth,” Schoenfeld said. He called the overall economic outlook “relatively favorable” but warned: “The stock market is probably overdue for a correction.”

Hoffman issued a separate caution: Disruption in the Middle East that increases oil prices could derail the bullish predictions.

Interest rates for 30-year fixed mortgages should increase from 3.99 percent in 2013 to 4.99 percent this year, according to PNC. The prime interest rate should remain steady at 3.25 percent, the PNC forecast shows.

“Ask yourself: What could be worse than what we went through the last couple years?” said Glassman, encouraging his audience to take a big-picture approach after the 2007-09 recession. “There's a lot of opportunity out there.”

Adam Smeltz is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676 or asmeltz@tribweb.com. Staff writer Sam Spatter contributed to this report.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.