Economy & Business

90.5 WESA explores the regional economy, as well as covering the issues that ordinary Pittsburghers face in their working lives.

Allyson Ruggieri / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania's unemployment rate ticked up in October for the second straight month, even as payrolls and the labor force hit record highs.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The union representing employees in the circulation and delivery division at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked a federal judge on Wednesday to issue a temporary restraining order to halt layoffs in the department. In court filings, Teamsters Local Union No. 211 says the publishing company is denying work and health benefits to dozens of laid-off union employees, which is a violation of the union contract.

East End Brewing

Although summer is the peak season for tourism in Pennsylvania, industries like craft brewing are pushing revenues well into the fall. 

Matt Rourke / AP

For almost four entire days last week, the computer system Pennsylvania uses to process unemployment compensation crashed, making it impossible for people to file continuing claims.

Anne Danahy / WPSU

Bo Hammond is hardwood sales manager for Collins Hardwood, a company based in Oregon with locations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and California. Hammond is giving me a tour of the company’s operations in Kane. It’s located in McKean County off Hardwood Drive.

Jared Murphy / 90.5 WESA

At AgraPharm LLC’s warehouse in Beaver County, the scent of cannabis is potent.

“What you're smelling today is about only a third of what it really smells like when we first harvest the crop,” said AgraPharm’s CEO Ed Santillan.

Michel Spingler / AP

FBI figures show a 107 percent increase from 2017 to 2018 in “Business Email Compromise” complaints, known as BEC, in the bureau’s Pittsburgh region. 

BECs occur when victims with access to company finances are convinced through phishing emails, phone calls or other methods that they are conducting a legitimate business transaction—but instead, the money ends up in accounts controlled by organized crime groups.

Pennsylvania Invests In Crops For Brewing And Distilling

Oct 22, 2019
Matt Smith / Keystone Crossroads

Pennsylvania is betting on booze to help grow the economy.

Fred Vuich / AP

Sports betting in Pennsylvania blew through its previous monthly record with the start of the NFL season.

Rick Bowmer / AP

Pennsylvania’s auditor general says when his team set out to determine how much addiction to opioids—and in particular, the powerful synthetic drug fentanyl—costs Pennsylvania, they immediately ran into some problems.

Allyson Ruggieri / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania’s Department of State has a new web page designed to help people apply for professional licenses, which the commonwealth requires for around 130 jobs—from hairdressing to funeral directing to auctioneering.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most popular franchises in the history of the National Football League, and vice president of sales and marketing Ryan Huzjak said the team isn't stopping at the border to attract new supporters. 

Amid Trump's Trade War, PA Farmers Fight To Survive In An Uncertain Market

Oct 14, 2019
Matt Smith for Keystone Crossroads

Don Cairns is driving through rural Chester County between one of his many plots of farmland. He grows corn, wheat, and soybeans on about 1,700 acres. It’s a hot, dry day — perfect for harvesting. He’s busy shuttling fresh-cut corn from the field back to his silos for storage.

In a sun-faded camouflage cap, a dusty brown t-shirt and blue jeans, Cairns lugs a large semi-truck hauling a grain trailer onto the cornfield. There, a combine outfitted with the latest technology analyzes the yields as it ploughs the field and shells the kernels from the cobs.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

A group of southwestern Pennsylvania business owners say tariff-related price increases have directly affected their ability to do business. At a panel in the Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood neighborhood on Thursday members of the nonprofit, chemicals, manufacturing, and agricultural industries addressed how the Trump administration’s trade tariffs directly are impacting them.

Sara D. Davis / AP Images for U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

job fair at Heinz Field Thursday will help veterans, military spouses, National Guard members, and reservists find work.

Courtesy of Fifth Season

Fifth Season, founded as RoBotany in 2016, is expanding its vertical farming business and branching out from Pittsburgh into nearby Braddock.

The company launched through Carnegie Mellon University’s Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, a business and robotics incubator. Co-founder and CEO Austin Webb said the company uses robotics and artificial intelligence technology to grow leafy greens and herbs all year round.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Mylan has agreed to pay $30 million in a settlement tied to its failure to tell investors about a Justice Department investigation into whether the company overcharged Medicaid for the EpiPen.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Contract workers at Google’s Bakery Square offices in Pittsburgh have voted to unionize with the United Steelworkers, by a 2-to-1 margin. The workers voted 49 to 24 to form the new Pittsburgh Association of Technology Professionals.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Contract employees at Google's Pittsburgh campus are voting on whether to unionize Tuesday. If successful, this will be the first union with the Pittsburgh Association of Tech Professionals, a new arm of the United Steelworkers.

Renata Nelson, a Google contractor in Pittsburgh, said the main priorities are to improve wages and benefit, and to cement job security.

"Our salaries are fairly low compared to industry average," Nelson said. "We've seen people being hired at lower and lower rates recently."

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Union leaders at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette are getting a better sense of how many people will be laid off once the newspaper’s shortened printing schedule takes effect at the end of the month.

Heather Ainsworth / AP

Lack of interest has thwarted Pennsylvania's latest casino expansion attempt.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board received no bidders Wednesday in a casino license auction ordered by lawmakers as part of an aggressive gambling expansion launched in 2017 by a cash-hungry state government.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A new report from policy experts has a warning for states like Pennsylvania that may consider legalizing marijuana: don't rely on estimated tax revenue, because it's tricky to guess.

Alexandria Zhang, a research officer with Pew Charitable Trusts and one of authors of the report, said it's really hard to make estimates on how much money could be made through legalized marijuana in part because it's such a new thing in the United States.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Despite high employment and wage increases for Pennsylvanians last year, black residents aren't seeing the same amount of growth. 

Nam Y. Huh / AP, File

Kraft Heinz Co. is bringing back its former chief financial officer amid accounting problems and falling sales. 

Scott Dalton / AP

Dick's Sporting Goods announced on Thursday that sales are up at some stores that are no longer selling guns. But the Corapolis-based company said it hasn't made a decision about whether to pull firearms from all its stores.

Last fall, as a test, it pulled 10 stores out of the "hunt business." Those stores would not sell any hunting- related gear, including guns, and instead would increase inventory of more profitable items, like sports jerseys and outerwear. 

Matt Rourke / AP

One state House lawmaker is trying to pitch a new solution to a very old Pennsylvania problem: the reliance on school property taxes.

Lebanon County Republican Representative Frank Ryan acknowledged Tuesday, his still-unintroduced property tax elimination plan would be a big, difficult pill for the commonwealth to swallow. That’s mainly because the plan contains nearly five-percent tax on all retirement income except Social Security.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania's jobless rate is up slightly but remains near record lows under state records that go back four decades.

Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo

High tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike do not violate the right of truckers and other motorists to travel between states, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday, upholding a lower-court dismissal of a lawsuit against state agencies and officials.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Pennsylvania's use of turnpike tolls to pay other costs was authorized by Congress and therefore does not violate the U.S. Constitution.

Kraft Heinz Takes Another $1 Billion Hit, Shares Plunge

Aug 8, 2019
Gene J. Puskar / AP

Kraft Heinz released its second quarter earnings report delayed by accounting problems and revealed continued fall-out related to those issues on top of weak sales.

The company that makes Oscar Mayer hot dogs, Kool-Aid, Heinz ketchup and Velveeta took charges in excess of $1 billion in the first half due in part to the "perceived risk" to the value of the company during a very rough year in which its stock has been cut in half.

At the opening bell Thursday, shares of The Kraft Heinz Co. tumbled another 14%, hitting 10 year lows.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Earlier this month, Sheetz made headlines when it announced it would be adding bitcoin ATMs to five of its Pennsylvania stores. However, bitcoin ATMs aren’t new to the Pittsburgh area, or to Pennsylvania.