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Region sets pace for job recovery

| Wednesday, June 13, 2012, 8:28 p.m.

Pittsburgh is recovering jobs lost to the recession faster than many other large metropolitan areas, according to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report out on Wednesday that focuses on job growth in Pittsburgh and Denver.

Public and private sector leaders planned to highlight the 10-county Pittsburgh region's economic resiliency today in connection with the chamber's "Jobs Summit 2012" in Washington.

Pittsburgh-area employers generated a 3.9 percent increase in jobs when comparing the first quarters of 2010 and 2012. That's slightly higher than Denver's 3.8 percent and significantly more than the 2.8 percent average among 49 other regions with more than 1 million residents.

"Pittsburgh has consistently been ranked in the top three or the top five in the country for job creation," said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who plans to discuss the region's economy this morning during a presentation at the National Press Club. "It's being noticed by the world, so the (U.S. Chamber) came to us and invited us to talk about it."

Fitzgerald joined Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Dennis Yablonsky and Bayer Corp. CEO Greg Babe on the trip. Babe plans to retire this month, and his successor Philip Blake could move 250 employees from the company's U.S. corporate headquarters in Robinson to Whippany, N.J.

Yablonsky said the chamber wanted to feature cities on either side of the Mississippi River that are experiencing job growth.

"It's about continuing to make people and companies aware of the region," he said. "We have over 10,000 open jobs in the region right now. The faster we fill them, the lower our unemployment rate will be."

Pittsburgh's strength is that its economy no longer relies on manufacturing as it did during steel production's heyday, he said.

Pittsburgh had the third-highest number of company expansion announcements last year, according to Site Selection Magazine, a trade publication that tracks corporate real estate strategy.

Yablonsky said the conference tracked 286 such expansion announcements, which he said are promising "forward indicators" of job growth. The most prominent potential investment of late is Royal Dutch Shell's plan to build a $4 billion ethane cracker plant in Beaver County.

Despite the growth of jobs here, annual population figures are either flat or growing slowly, the report warns.

"Pittsburgh's new challenge is not in stemming an outflow of residents, but in improving its performance in attracting new ones," it said.

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