Beyond GDP and Unemployment: How the Economy Affects Lehigh Valley Households
By Nicole Radzievich Mertz on September 20, 2021
Labor Force. Unemployment Rates. GDP.
Those reliable measures, tracked consistently over the years by LVEDC, provide a broad measure of the overall of economic progress. Other indicators — such as household income, poverty, and wages — deliver a more precise look at how the economy is affecting individuals.
The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation is tracking those more precise economic indicators as well to understand where the region stood on the eve of the pandemic and the subsequent impacts since.
“To really understand the regional economy, it’s important that we analyze not only broad measures of economic output like GDP, but also specific indicators of how families are faring and what workers are earning in the Lehigh Valley talent market,” said George Lewis, LVEDC Vice President of Communications, Marketing and Research. “In general, in the last five years we have seen the median household income rise, and hourly wages increase, notably during the pandemic, to reflect the competition for talent among employers.”
The Lehigh Valley’s median household measures the midpoint where half the household earn less and half more. Household income includes the income of everyone 15 and older in the household in the past 12 months.
Median household income in 2019 rose for the sixth straight year to $66,865 in the Lehigh Valley, according to Census estimates analyzed on the Chmura Economics’ JobsEQ platform.
That was above the median household income estimate of $62,843 in the United States and $61,744 in Pennsylvania.
Household income in Lehigh Valley was up from $55,928 in 2010, not adjusted for inflation.
The data are derived from the five-year estimates from the American Community Survey, a program of the U.S. Census. The data cover Lehigh and Northampton counties.
Poverty levels in the Lehigh Valley have remained somewhat steady over the last decade. It was 10.5% in 2010 and hit a high of 11.9% in 2013. It dropped back down to 10.7% in 2019, according to Census data analyzed on JobsEQ. That data cover Lehigh and Northampton counties.
The Lehigh Valley’s poverty level is below the statewide average of 13.4% and nationwide of 12.4% statewide as measured by the American Community Survey.
LVEDC is focused on creating economic opportunity for people of all education and skill levels, so that more workers are able to earn family-sustaining wages while building skills and experience they need to be prepared for higher-paying jobs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics collects data on wages, or straight-time gross pay. That includes compensation such as tips and hazard pay, but it does not include compensation such as overtime, shift differentials and holiday bonuses.
The median wages across all industries in the Lehigh Valley metro region rose from $17.14 an hour in 2016 to $19.35 an hour in 2020. The data show the median wage across all industries were notably increased during the pandemic. The results reflect the continuing competition for talent that Lehigh Valley employers identify as one of their major business challenges.
The Lehigh Valley metro region includes the counties of Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon in Pennsylvania and Warren, N.J.
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