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Lehigh Valley Jobs Continue to Grow in January after Factoring in Seasonal Work

By Nicole Radzievich Mertz on March 18, 2021

Lehigh Valley’s employment continued to grow in January, according to preliminary, seasonally adjusted data. (Graphic/Liz Martin)

The Lehigh Valley metropolitan region added 800 jobs in January after factoring in the seasonal fluctuations of holiday shopping and shipping winding down, according to new labor data.

Employment rose to 362,200, which is down 5.5% over last January before the COVID-19 pandemic sent the economy into a global recession. Pennsylvania’s jobs are down 7.5% since January 2020, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. On a more optimistic note, the metropolitan region (which includes Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, and Warren counties) has gained back about three-quarters of jobs lost last April, when much of the economy was curtailed or closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in Lehigh and Northampton counties ticked up to 7.4%, on pace with the statewide 7.3% rate, and the number of residents employed or seeking employment in the two counties declined by 1,000 to 346,500, according to preliminary data.

“January’s data underscore the complicated nature of the recovery from a severe downturn caused by the pandemic,” said George Lewis, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation Vice President of Communications, Marketing and Research. “We know that our strong industrial sector ramped up to meet the demands of the holiday season and expected January’s figures to reflect the end of seasonal employment.”

Lehigh Valley, which sits in the heart of the Northeast market, became a critical link in the supply chain that delivered merchandise during the busy holiday shopping season when e-commerce soared. As logistics companies like Amazon and FedEx Ground got ready in the fall, there were more than 1,900 job postings in October and November – 900 more over the previous year – for stocking and material moving occupations in Lehigh and Northampton counties, according to Chmura Economics JobsEQ.

And logistics employers are continuing to advertise for jobs, with one recently offering as much as $23 an hour.

Non-seasonally adjusted data shows that the transportation and warehousing sector declined by 2,300 from December to January in the metropolitan region. But, at 36,500, employment in the sector is 4,000 higher than the previous January.

A release from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry indicates the largest monthly declines in jobs were “seasonal in nature as cold weather settled in, the holiday shopping and shipping season wound down and local schools and colleges were on winter break.”

Recently revised jobs numbers showed an even steeper job loss than previously reported last spring. Employment in the metropolitan region went from 380,000 in March to 307,000 in April, a loss of 73,000 jobs. The initial estimate was a 59,500 drop in employment. Unemployment in April spiked at 16.6%.

The revised data shows the region gained or maintained employment for the last nine months.

The employment estimates are adjusted and updated once a year based on additional or revised information collected after the initial data release.

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$41.2 Billion

2018 Gross Domestic Product

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10.6% of Labor Force
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$3.8 Billion

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14% of the total community college degrees awarded in PA

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69th largest metropolitan area in the U.S. by population

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149,000

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