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Growth in Key 18-34 Age Demographic Vital to Lehigh Valley Talent Market

By George Lewis on January 25, 2019

In the competition for new jobs and economic expansion, the Lehigh Valley’s advantages include its growing workforce and the increasing population in an important age demographic: 18- to 34-year-olds.

Access to talent is one of the top factors that influence where employers locate new operations or expand existing ones. From a labor availability standpoint, Lehigh and Northampton counties are among only 18 of the 67 Pennsylvania counties where population has grown since 2010, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pennsylvania State Data Center.

The Lehigh Valley’s labor force grew by 3.3 percent during the five-year period ending with 2017, which is the most recent year for which Census Bureau data is available. About 350,000 people participate in the labor force in Lehigh and Northampton counties.

In that same period, the Lehigh Valley’s population between the ages of 18 and 34 grew by 5.1 percent. In addition, the Lehigh Valley’s three cities – Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton – each have a considerably higher percentage of residents aged 18 to 34 than Pennsylvania overall.

Growth in that key demographic group is significant for a couple of reasons. It shows employers that they can draw from a pool of available talent that has recently entered or soon will enter the Lehigh Valley’s workforce. It also demonstrates that the Lehigh Valley is successfully attracting the new talent that employers need as they expand, and as existing workers retire.

In a survey that LVEDC conducted a year ago among more than 300 Lehigh Valley employers, 90 percent of respondents said a skilled workforce is essential to their business growth, and 89 percent said they expected to hire new workers in 2018.

How does the Lehigh Valley’s recent growth in the 18-to-34 demographic compare with other regions? Among markets of similar size based on economic output, the Lehigh Valley outpaces communities such as Charleston, S.C. (3.2 percent), New Haven, Conn. (1.2 percent), and Rochester, N.Y. (-1.1 percent). But the Lehigh Valley lags regions that are recognized as talent magnets, including Nashville (8.2 percent), Charlotte (7.8 percent) and Pittsburgh (6.4 percent).

Even with the Lehigh Valley’s growth over the last five years, the 18 to 34 age group makes up a little more than one-quarter of the region’s current labor force. Nationwide, that age demographic has grown to more than one-third of the labor force.

A 2017 study by the Pew Research Center found that Millennials (defined as those born between 1981 and 1996) had become the largest segment of the U.S. labor force, which further reinforces the importance of attracting and retaining 18- to 34-year-olds as part of a talent supply strategy for the Lehigh Valley.

LVEDC works with employers, educators and other stakeholders to identify and analyze talent supply and demand issues and develop a broad-based understanding of the Lehigh Valley’s labor force.

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11% of Labor Force
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