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OK, Boomer: Here’s Why Lehigh Valley’s Rising Young Adult Population is Good for the Recovery

By Nicole Radzievich Mertz on July 16, 2021

Lehigh Valley has a notable advantage as the economy emerges from the pandemic and companies rethink how and where to do business: young adults.

Lehigh Valley’s population between the ages of 18 and 34 grew by 10.7% over the last decade, a faster rate than every other region in Pennsylvania. Lehigh County led the state’s 67 counties at 12.3% growth and Northampton County came in fourth at 8.8%, according to Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) analysis of new population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Lehigh Valley is the fastest growing region in Pennsylvania in the 18-34 year old demographic. (Source: U.S. Census Population Estimates)

Lehigh Valley has nearly 150,000 residents in that age group – enough to fill Madison Square Garden seven times.

And the prime work force age group, those 25 to 54 years old, is projected to grow by six-tenths of a percent annually through 2034 in Lehigh Valley, according to data analyzed on Chmura’s JobsEQ.

That trend is attractive to companies looking to re-shore operations or shorten supply chains in an affordable location in the heart of the Northeast market. Access to young talent, especially as baby boomers retire, is a key factor as to where companies locate, said George Lewis, LVEDC Vice President of Communications, Marketing and Research.

“Companies desire regions with enough talent to accommodate not only current employment but future expansions,” Lewis said. “The demographic data make a very compelling case to consider Lehigh Valley.”

National demographic trends show the population is increasing at its slowest rate since the Great Depression. Lehigh Valley includes two of just 20 Pennsylvania counties that have increased in population over the last decade.

The region’s three cities – Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton – are among the state’s eight cities that added population. Allentown has a higher percentage of growth than every city in the state but Philadelphia, according to the Penn State Data Center.

Lehigh Valley’s population grew by 4.6% over the last decade to 676,694. The 18-to-34 age bracket grew by 10.7% and comprises more than a fifth of the region’s population.

Natural population growth – the net effect of births and deaths – accounts for nearly a quarter of Lehigh Valley’s growth.

The chart, from the Penn State Data Center, shows the components of population change from 2011-2020 in Lehigh County. The blue line denotes the number of births, red deaths, green domestic migration and purple international migration.

The bigger driver for Lehigh Valley is migration. Since 2010, a net of 22,351 people moved into the region. International migration, especially in Lehigh County, accounted for most of it. Lehigh County is in the top 1% of all U.S. counties for inward migration from international locations, according to SelectUSA, a program of the U.S. Commerce Department. Lehigh County had a net international migration gain of 18,420 since 2010.

Lehigh Valley’s profile was raised during the pandemic as employees began working remotely and residents of nearby urban centers considered less congested places to live. The number of moves into Lehigh Valley from New York metro region, about 90 minutes away, increased by 13.7% last year, according to U.S. Postal Service data analyzed by commercial real estate services firm CBRE.

The chart, from the Penn State Data Center, shows the components of population change from 2011-2020 in Northampton County. The blue line denotes the number of births, red deaths, green domestic migration and purple international migration.

Lehigh Valley is among the most desirable locations in the country for remote work because of its property values, green space and low crime rates, according to Ownerly, which produces real estate analytics.

Among those relocating to Lehigh Valley was Jason Toff, a 34-year-old Facebook executive who decided last year to move his family back to the region where he grew up.

“The Lehigh Valley is a great place for remote work,” Toff said. “We have an international airport nearby, and I could pop into the New York City office occasionally as needed. It works out well for me since I can take my boys to school before California wakes up then call in for meetings during West Coast hours.”

Stories like Toff’s fuel LVEDC’s marketing efforts to attract talent and businesses. Lehigh Valley companies last year added or planned to add at least 7.1 million square feet that accounted for the expansion and/or retention of 6,078 jobs, according to LVEDC research. And prospects continued into 2021. In recent years, Lehigh Valley scored new companies like ADP which is brought 1,000 employees to downtown Allentown and expansions from homegrown companies like OraSure Technologies which announced plays to nearly doubled its workforce to 410 as it worked on producing a rapid COVID-19 test.

IotaComm CEO and President Terrence DeFranco, a Lehigh Valley native who moved his software company’s headquarters to Allentown last year, said new businesses like his bring skilled managers with rock star resumes who can mentor greener employees.

“We have managers who have worked at NBC Universal, Comcast and Deloitte. Those companies don’t have a presence here, but Lehigh Valley attracted people who worked at those companies because of the quality of life,” said DeFranco, who worked at global financial firm UBS. “That creates opportunities to keep younger people here, and it has this great, compounding effect.”

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$43.3 Billion

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10.6% of Labor Force
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14% of the total community college degrees awarded in PA

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