Philly region jobs report: Less drop, less rise

"The city is healthier," Philadelphia's deputy mayor of economic development, Alan Greenberger, said, attributing the growth, in part, to an influx of college-educated millennials, who tend to be employed, and to the growth of major institutions such as Drexel University and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. (Courtesy of Children's Hospital)

At first blush, this is a headline screamer: Philadelphia region brings up the bottom in job recovery.

How bad is it?

So bad that the region's wretched post-recession job-growth performance makes the beleaguered city of Detroit look like a rock star, based on a Pew Trust analysis of U.S. Labor Department Statistics.

Of the nation's 50 top metropolitan regions, Philadelphia ranked 47th, with 4.7 percent increase in jobs since the darkest days of the recession.

At the top, San Jose, Calif., grew 23.7 percent, followed by Austin, Texas, at 22.6 percent, and Nashville at 19.3 percent. Detroit grew 13.1 percent.

So what happened?

"There has been slower growth in this region," said economist Adam Ozimek at Moody's Analytics, which is based in West Chester.

But that's only part of the story.

The reason Detroit looks so good and this region does not is that the Philadelphia area did not fall as far. In recovery, it did not have as much to gain, and what it did gain looks less dramatic.

Imagine a coffee shop that employed six people until the recession, when it had to let four baristas go. Now lattes are on the upswing, so the cafe brought on two baristas. That's 100 percent growth. That would be Detroit.

The Philadelphia story would be more like the coffee shop employing six people until the recession, when it let three baristas go, then lately hired one - showing 33.3 percent growth in employment.

"It wasn't as bad here as it was elsewhere," Ozimek said.

Philadelphia's deputy mayor of economic development, Alan Greenberger, said Thursday: "The city outperformed the region as a whole."

U.S. Labor Department statistics indicate that the city's unemployment rate dropped to 6.5 percent in April, from 7.5 percent a year ago, and the city's payrolls are at their highest since 2001.

"The city is healthier," Greenberger said, attributing the growth, in part, to an influx of college-educated millennials, who tend to be employed, and to the growth of major institutions such as Drexel University and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The area covered in the Pew report goes beyond the city limits, using government definitions of the region which lump together Philadelphia, four Pennsylvania counties, four New Jersey counties, and parts of Delaware and Maryland.

Pew's analysis of the region shows that the most robust growth is in an area including Salem County and parts of Delaware and Maryland up 7.5 percent, but with relatively few jobs, not quite 24,000.

Slowest to grow were the three nearby Jersey counties - Camden, Gloucester and Burlington. Together they added about 10,000 jobs from the lowest point, a growth of just 2 percent.

Employment in the city grew 4.8 percent, edging ahead of the region as a whole, with 31,000 jobs added.

Since the darkest days of the recession, the city, along with Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester Counties added 94,200 jobs, growing 5 percent.


jvonbergen@phillynews.com

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@JaneVonBergen

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