Lehigh Valley Ranks Highest Among Pennsylvania Regions for Post-Recession Job Growth for Fourth Straight Year
By Colin McEvoy on June 13, 2017
For the fourth straight year, the Lehigh Valley ranks highest among major metropolitan areas in Pennsylvania in terms of post-recession job growth, according to an analysis by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).
The Lehigh Valley had 4.9 percent more jobs by the end of 2016 than it did before the Great Recession began, which is significantly higher than the statewide average of 1.8 percent, and higher than that of seven other major regions in the state.
“The Lehigh Valley weathered the Great Recession better than most areas in the state and entered a period of sustained growth thanks to the region’s highly-balanced economy,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO.
“If you look at the Lehigh Valley GDP by industry sector, our top four sectors all fall within $700 million of each other,” Cunningham said. “That kind of remarkable balance isn’t common in a regional economy. It shows we don’t have all our eggs in one basket, like during the days of Bethlehem Steel, which makes for a healthier economy overall.”
The Lehigh Valley had 362,900 seasonally-adjusted nonfarm jobs at the end of 2016, which is 4.9 percent higher than the 346,100 jobs it had in December 2007, when the Great Recession began.
That’s a higher percentage than other Pennsylvania regions that have seen job growth over that same period of time, including Philadelphia (3.2 percent more jobs than before the recession), Harrisburg (2.1 percent), Reading (1.9 percent), and Pittsburgh (1.6 percent).
Other regions in the state have fewer jobs today than before the Recession, such as Erie, which had 4.6 percent fewer jobs at the end of 2016 than it did in December 2007. Likewise, the Scranton-Wilkes Barre region has 1 percent fewer jobs, and York has 0.2 percent fewer.
Only Lancaster has an equivalent level of post-recession job growth as the Lehigh Valley, tying the region with 4.9 percent more jobs over that time. Lancaster has 251,100 jobs today, compared to 239,300 in December 2007.
Health care remains the largest sector for jobs in the Lehigh Valley, accounting for 16.8 percent of the region’s total 362,900 jobs. The health care sector has increased steadily from 50,868 jobs in December 2007 to 61,908 jobs in December 2016.
After health care, the largest percentage of Lehigh Valley jobs come from retail (11.3 percent), manufacturing (10 percent), accommodation and food services (8.3 percent), and transportation and warehousing (6.7 percent).
The Lehigh Valley has added more than 10,000 jobs in the transportation and warehousing sector since the recession. The sector rose from 13,780 in December 2007 to 24,197 in December 2016.
Factoring job reductions in the sector during the recession, the number of transportation and warehousing jobs in 2016 is nearly twice what it was at the low point in December 2009 (12,873), before the economic recovery began.
The region has fewer jobs manufacturing jobs today than it did before the Great Recession, with 39,830 in December 2007 compared to 36,226 in December 2016. But the number of manufacturing jobs has been steadily increasing since reaching a low point of 34,593 at the end of 2009, when the recovery began.
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/Hazleton, and York-Hanover
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 Director of Research George Lewis.
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