Ups and downs

Ups to a report that the number of strikes in Pennsylvania fell from 36 in 2001 to 31 in 2002. The state Department of Labor and Industry found that there were 12 public sector labor disputes that led to work stoppages last year; 19 were in the private sector.

Ups to a settlement between Allegheny County and US Airways that prevents the airline from pulling out of Pittsburgh before Jan. 5, 2004, without the county’s approval.

Downs to reports that Pittsburgh-area unemployment inched up in June. It could be just a statistical aberration, the Pennsylvania Center for Workforce Analysis contends, as demand for jobs typically surges in June as students look for summer work. The good news: Construction, manufacturing and retailing added jobs during the month.

Ups to State Farm Mutual Insurance Co.’s decision to lease 50,000 square feet of office space in The Fountainhead, a building in Southpointe. It comes as the popular business park is about to expand with the purchase of an adjacent property.

Ups to a rating of Pittsburgh as No. 10 in an annual rating of U.S. cities for European expansion, according to Expansion Management magazine.

Downs to the exit of Denny Watts from Dick Corp. after just a year on the job. One of his biggest headaches: $50 million in unpaid bills due from a contract for a power plant near Chicago, where Dick Corp.’s partner was Enron Corp. The power company it contracted with filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May.

Downs to the downsizing of the Pittsburgh operations of MediaSite, a local tech start-up snapped up by SonicFoundry Inc., a Madison, Wisc., public company in a stock deal valued at about $5.8 million in late 2001. The move leaves just a handful of employees in Pittsburgh.

Ups to Mellon Financial Corp.’s report of a 60 percent jump in quarterly earnings, due to far lower costs to cover credit losses and a stronger market for investment management services.

Ups to a poll by National City Bank that says small businesses in the Pittsburgh region plan to do at least some hiring in the second half of the year. In the survey of about 900 businesses, National City found that nearly 40 percent of employers plan to hire additional employees.