I hauled myself into our region in 1982, the year before Pittsburgh hit rock bottom with its 18 percent metro jobless rate. I’ve joked over the years that I was one of the few 20-somethings moving in when so many people my age were moving out. (The region lost about 50,000 people in 1984 alone.)
One sure sign, I noted: all the U-Haul trailers headed the other way as I headed toward Pittsburgh.
It was an exaggeration, of course. I don’t remember all that many U-Hauls, although in those days it was pretty cheap to rent a trailer if you were headed toward Pittsburgh.
Well, the “U-Haul Index” has reversed itself.
The Pittsburgh Business Times reports that our region topped a national survey of moving trends in 2012, with the highest percentage growth of people moving in to the region.
Pittsburgh ranked Number One on the U-Haul 2012 National Migration Trend Report, using U-Haul data for regions with more than 5,000 people moving in a year. We were up 9.04 percent.
Metro Pittsburgh beat all other parts of the United States, including Austin, Texas (up 7.3 percent), San Francisco (up 6.8 percent) and Dallas (up 3.2 percent).
The top ranking as a “city for growth” is yet another indication of the remarkable run our region had over the past five years, during which Pittsburgh was one of the first three metropolitan areas to fully recover from the Great Recession, according to the Brookings Institution.
Things have slowed down in recent months, as growth in other metros that fell a lot harder during the recession has begun to accelerate. We’ve also felt the effect of government cutbacks — not just in government jobs, which were down 2.8 percent in February, but in sectors like arts, entertainment and recreation, and educational services that depend on government funding.
At the same time, we’re growing where it counts – in the five sectors the region targeted about 20 years ago. They are advanced manufacturing, financial and business services, energy, healthcare and life sciences, and information and communications technology. Employment in these sectors increased by 1.9 percent in February, a bit below the national average but twice the statewide rate of 1 percent.
All of which may help to account for all those U-Hauls with out-of-state plates you may be seeing around town — you know, the ones that are unloading here.