Good year for jobs - everywhere but here

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Casino job losses put the Atlantic City area in an unfortunate leadership position - the metropolitan area with the largest annual job loss, both by number and by percentage, in the United States, the U.S. Labor Department reported Tuesday. (Stephanie Aaronson/Philly.com)

It has been a good year for jobs in cities and their surroundings throughout the nation, as employment has increased and the unemployment rate declined.

But not Philadelphia, and not Atlantic City.

Casino job losses put the Atlantic City area in an unfortunate leadership position - the metropolitan area with the largest annual job loss, both by number and by percentage, in the United States, the U.S. Labor Department reported Tuesday.

And the Philadelphia region - consisting of the city and surrounding counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery - had the dubious distinction of being the only one of 32 studied by the Labor Department to lose jobs, 16,700 in total, from November 2013 to November 2014.

During the recession, metropolitan areas in Michigan and Ohio held that distinction.

So what's going on?

In Philadelphia and the nearby Pennsylvania counties, "a big part of it is local government employment, which is down significantly from last year," said economist Adam Ozimek of Moody's Analytics, in West Chester. Ozimek specializes in Pennsylvania.

Ozimek said that 6,000 local education jobs were lost in the last year - not only teachers, but aides and assistants.

Despite news from the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association that room occupancy is up, leisure and hospitality employment has declined by 2,000 jobs, Ozimek said. Those cuts, he added, might be in restaurants or local attractions, and reflect slow income growth in the area.

"Manufacturing signals are a little mixed," Ozimek said. Manufacturing lost jobs over the year, but manufacturers say they are planning to hire, Ozimek said, citing the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's monthly survey of regional manufacturers.

However, he said, manufacturers can be optimistic about hiring without the optimism translating into significant job growth. That's because manufacturing has become increasingly automated, so fewer workers are needed.

"Philadelphia isn't doing that great this year, but it's a longer-term story, and I think policy is part of that," he said. Ozimek says the new Philadelphia cigarette tax will improve hiring at city schools.

The U.S. Labor Department distinguishes between metropolitan areas, which are larger regions, and metropolitan divisions, which are subsections big enough to be counted.

The smaller Philadelphia metropolitan division includes Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties.

The Philadelphia metropolitan area includes the Philadelphia metropolitan division; Camden, Burlington, Gloucester, and Salem Counties in New Jersey; New Castle County, Del.; and parts of Maryland.

Of the nation's largest metropolitan areas, which include the Philadelphia area but not the Atlantic City area, the Philadelphia area, with a 0.2 percent drop, was the only one of 38 with a year-over-year percentage decline in employment.

"What's really baffling me is Philadelphia," said economist Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors, in Bucks County. "Everybody seems to be saying, things are getting better. But the [Labor Department] has discovered things are getting a lot worse in Philadelphia."

The suburbs, he said, are still experiencing problems due to job-cutting changes in the pharmaceutical industry.

In the city, it is less clear. Perhaps, he said, there is job growth in small business that has yet to show up in the statistics.

Among all the metropolitan areas, comparing this past November to November 2013, the Atlantic City-Hammonton metropolitan area lost 8,600 jobs, with the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington area coming in second with a job loss of 4,800.

By percentage, the Atlantic City area was also highest, with a 6.4 percent decline, followed by a 3.9 percent decline in the neighboring Ocean City metropolitan area.

The metropolitan division with the largest job gain, 88,700 jobs, includes New York City and some of its suburbs, including much of North Jersey. The metropolitan regions with the biggest gains are in Texas.


BY THE NUMBERS

16,700

Job loss in November in Philadelphia, Bucks, Delaware, Chester, and Montgomery Counties compared with November 2013.

1.7

Percent decline in the same counties in that period.

8,600

Job loss in the Atlantic City metro region in that period.

6.4

Percentage decline in jobs in the Atlantic City metro region in that period.


jvonbergen@phillynews.com

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@JaneVonBergen

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