Economic report highlights growth in Pittsburg economy

Jordan Meier

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Over a year after COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the economy and as employers still struggle to fill jobs, the Pittsburg Area Micropolitan Economic report for Quarter 2 of 2021 shows that Pittsburg is keeping pace with many of the nation's unemployment trends.  

According to the Kansas Department of Labor, as of June, Crawford County’s unemployment rate was at 4.4 percent, higher than the statewide rate of 3.7 percent but still below the national unemployment rate of 5.9 percent. This is in line with what many city officials have been saying for some time, which is that Pittsburg “weathered the storm of Covid.”  

“The pandemic brought a lot of uncertainty,” said City of Pittsburg Finance Director Larissa Bowman at a City Commission meeting in June, “but the city feels like we’ve weathered that storm and we continue to see growth in our community.”   

However, Pittsburg, like the rest of the country, is still struggling to find workers to fill needed jobs.  

“The number of job openings nationwide is surging, with a record of 9.3 million unfilled jobs in April 2021 (latest available), and there is now 1.1 unemployed persons per job opening,” the report said. “Layoffs and discharges declined to a record low of 1.4 million but quits increased to a series high of 4.0 million, with the largest increases in retail trade, professional and business services, and transportation, warehousing, and utilities.”  

Pittsburg City Manager Daron Hall’s proposed 2022 budget, which he presented at last week’s city commission meeting, projects growth in a number of revenue streams and was presented as a reflection of what the city will be “post-Covid”.  

“Our local economy is strong and growing,” said Hall during the budget presentation. “Although we adjust to tight labor markets, high materials prices and extreme weather, we continue to thrive.”   

In addition to highlighting unemployment rates in the area the Pittsburg Area Micropolitan Economic report also points to significant growth in the residential housing market.  

“A total of nine single-family residential building permits were issued by the city of Pittsburg during the first five months of 2021, with a combined value of $2,347,535 (up 511.3 percent from the same period in 2020),” the report said, “and 43 residential building permits were issued for additions, alterations, and conversions.”  

However, it's not just residential construction that is taking off, houses are also selling much faster.  

“Local housing sales are also increasing significantly with 65 homes sold in May,” the report said. “Furthermore, homes are selling much faster and housing inventories are shrinking. The median time on the market was 48 days in May 2021, and the number of homes on the market has shrunk 41.6 percent. A total of 212 homes were sold during the first five months of 2021.”  

However, commercial property real estate has appeared to take a hit. According to the report, the city only issued three building permits for new commercial property in the first five months of the year, down 44 percent from the same time period last year. The city has also issued 39 permits for additions, alterations or conversations for commercial properties during the first five months of the year, down 59.3 percent from the same period last year.  

“Overall, the city issued 42 building permits during the period, with a combined value of $3,272,515,” the report said. “The value of commercial permits in the Pittsburg area increased 91.8 percent in 2020.” 

Besides highlighting growth in real estate, the report also pointed to an increase in tourism in the area over the last several years. According to the report, “visiting tourists also support a wide variety of industries. The most affected include accommodation, restaurants (all types), bars, gambling, amusement, and general merchandise stores. These industries combined paid directly $95.8 million in value-added or 5.9 percent of the local GDP. Additionally, these industries created $35.1 million in value-added indirect and induced impacts.”  

The report also pointed to 29 downtown revitalization projects as having boosted Pittsburg’s reputation as a bustling town with a lively downtown area that attracts all age groups and visitors.  

“The largest groups visiting downtown,” the report said, “are classified by Buxton as ambitious dreamers, digitally-savvy, potlucks who love the great outdoors, and modest income retirees.”  

According to a recent USA Today article, 16.4 percent of the state’s population is 65 or older, and the state has one of the lower costs of living for those who are retired.