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Manufacturing Jobs in the Lehigh Valley Grew to Pre-Pandemic Levels in December

By Nicole Radzievich Mertz on January 27, 2022

Manufacturing jobs in the Lehigh Valley metro region grew to 40,000 in December, a level not reached since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the economy nearly two years ago, new federal data show.

The sector has steadily added jobs since April 2020 when employment dipped to 33,600 and climbed back up to 38,300 by year’s end, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, which were not adjusted for seasonal fluctuations. The preliminary employment numbers for December 2021 now match what they were in December 2019.

Job gains across the nation have slowed in recent months amid a tight labor market. Meanwhile, the wages are increasing with employers across the nation spending 4% more on compensation in 2021. In the Lehigh Valley, average manufacturing wages rose from $70,900 in the second quarter of 2020 to $74,000 a year later, according to Chmura Economics JobsEQ.

“Manufacturing is a core industry for the Lehigh Valley and critical for the nation,” said Karianne Gelinas, Business Development and Talent Supply Vice President at the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). “We know that manufacturers have not been immune to the workforce challenges facing employers across the country, which is why we continue to prioritize talent strategies that fortify our talent pipeline here.”

The manufacturing gains punctuate a dynamic year for the recovery in the Lehigh Valley metro region, which includes Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, and Warren counties. The region added 11,900 jobs across all industries – the most in a single calendar year since at least 1990, the earliest local employment statistics the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes online. Employment was up in 108 metro areas over the year and essentially unchanged in 281.

Lehigh Valley’s employment in December was 9,800 jobs below what it was in December 2019, according to preliminary data. Not all industries recovered at the same pace.

Manufacturing, one of the few sectors in the Lehigh Valley that has achieved pre-pandemic employment, has been a driving force in the Lehigh Valley’s recovery.

With an output of $7.9 billion in 2020, the region’s manufacturing sector broke into the Top 50 U.S. markets as it supplied enough food, medical supplies, and other essential items that sustained the nation.

Manufacturing in 2020 comprised 18.5% of the Lehigh Valley’s private-sector output, higher than the national share of 12.1%.

The region’s manufacturing sector has continued to expand in the Lehigh Valley during the pandemic as companies including Stuffed Puffs and OraSure Technologies opened new facilities last year. In the last week, pet health and wellness company Spot & Tango announced plans to lease a new manufacturing facility in the Lehigh Valley, creating close to 100 jobs.

Long-time home to iconic brands like Martin Guitar and Crayola, Lehigh and Northampton counties boast 676 manufacturing establishments. The Lehigh Valley’s manufacturing strength was on national display in July when the White House came to Mack Trucks to launch the “Made in America” initiative.

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Lehigh ValleyQuick Facts

By the Numbers
$43.3 Billion

2020 Gross Domestic Product

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City Center Lehigh Valley
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10.6% of Labor Force
Employed in Manufacturing

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Lehigh Valley Health Network
By the Numbers
$3.8 Billion

Exports in 2019

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Air Products
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Lehigh Valley Electricians
By the Numbers
$66,865

Median Household Income

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PPL Electric Utilities
By the Numbers
676,700

Population

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Olympus
By the Numbers
347,612

Labor Force

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26.6% of Labor Force
Employed in "Eds & Meds" sectors

By the Numbers
5,073

Technology Patents

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Mack Trucks
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UGI
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Magestic Realty Co
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NFI
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14% of the total community college degrees awarded in PA

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Wells Fargo
By the Numbers
$7.1 Billion

Manufacturing Contribution to GDP

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

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Key Bank
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10,754 degrees awarded by Lehigh Valley colleges (2017-18 academic year)

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St. Lukes University Health Network
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82,270 employed in "Eds & Meds" sectors

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Workforce Board
By the Numbers
149,000

Population between ages 18 and 34

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FirstEnergy