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Lehigh Valley Has Best Post-Recession Job Growth in Pennsylvania for Third Straight Year

By Colin McEvoy on June 2, 2016

This chart shows job growth in nine major Pennsylvania regions compared to pre-recession levels (signified by the black dotted line). It shows Lehigh Valley currently has 3.53% more jobs than it had prior to the Great Recession.

This chart shows job growth in nine major Pennsylvania regions compared to pre-recession levels (signified by the black dotted line). It shows Lehigh Valley currently has 3.53% more jobs than it had prior to the Great Recession.

For the third straight year, the Lehigh Valley ranks highest among major metropolitan areas in Pennsylvania when it comes to post-recession job growth.

The Lehigh Valley has 3.53 percent more jobs today than it did before the Great Recession began. That’s higher than eight other regions in the state with a population of 200,000 or more, and far exceeds the statewide average of 1.05 percent.

This analysis by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) shows that the Lehigh Valley weathered the recession better – and recovered from it faster – than any major Pennsylvania region, thanks in part to the region’s highly balanced economy.

“The Lehigh Valley has a widely diversified business base and an economy much less susceptible to the rise and fall of one company or one sector,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO. “That’s why the Lehigh Valley weathered the Great Recession better than most areas in the state and has entered a period of sustained growth.”

This continues a trend for the Lehigh Valley, which has had the highest post-recession job growth in the state since the second quarter of 2014, when it surpassed the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, according to the analysis.

State leader in job growth

The Lehigh Valley had 357,800 seasonally-adjusted nonfarm jobs in the second quarter of 2016, which is 3.53 percent higher than the 345,600 it had in December 2007, when the Great Recession began.

Like the Lehigh Valley, the majority of Pennsylvania regions have fully recovered from the Great Recession, according to the study. Lancaster has the closest job growth levels to the Lehigh Valley, with 2.77 percent more nonfarm jobs than before the recession. They are followed by Philadelphia (1.91 percent), Reading (1.68 percent), and Harrisburg-Carlisle (1.37 percent).

The “education and health services” sector saw the largest post-recession growth in the Lehigh Valley, coming in at 13.31 percent higher than in December 2007, according to the analysis. The second-highest sector is “trade, transportation, and utilities,” which is 12.17 percent higher than pre-recession levels.

A fast recovery

The Lehigh Valley also recovered far faster than most other Pennsylvania regions in the state, returning to pre-recession job levels in fourth quarter of 2012, roughly 18 months before any other region recovered except for Pittsburgh.

Likewise, the statewide average did not return to pre-recession job levels until the fourth quarter of 2014, a full two years after the Lehigh Valley already had.

The Lehigh Valley didn’t lose as many jobs during the Great Recession as most areas in the state. In the fourth quarter of 2009, the Lehigh Valley had lost 3.9 percent of its employment from two years earlier. But, other than Pittsburgh, most areas of the state had experienced job losses from 4.5 to 6.5 percent. Therefore, the Lehigh Valley had fewer jobs to regain once the recovery began to take place.

About the study

The LVEDC analysis accounts for all Pennsylvania metropolitan areas with a population of 200,000 or higher, as well as the state average. This comprises nine regions: the Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pittsburgh, Erie, Harrisburg-Carlisle, Lancaster, Reading, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and York.

The analysis begins with a baseline of total nonfarm jobs in December 2007, and measures changes in jobs using a percentage, rather than job figures, so that a valid comparison between regions with different population sizes can be reached, according to LVEDC research specialist John Lamirand.

According to a study released by the Brookings Institution last year, the Lehigh Valley was one of only 32 out of 80 United States metropolitan areas with equal or higher GDP per capita and employment in comparison to 2007 levels. That study accounted for the world’s 300 largest major metropolitan areas by population.

This LVEDC analysis uses Current Employment Statistics data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Lamirand said. The data is current as of April 2016, which is the most recent month available.

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