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Philadelphia could either add or lose tens of thousands of jobs in coming years

By Ryan Mulligan, Digital Producer

Philadelphia Business Journal | Feb 24, 2022

Philadelphia could add — or lose — some 30,000 jobs over the next few years as the effects of the pandemic continue to play out, according to various scenarios presented in a new report from Pew Charitable Trusts.

Under one scenario, dubbed "Overall Growth," the study shows Philadelphia adding some 36,000 jobs by mid-2025 if high in-person activity returns at offices, restaurants, transportation lines, music venues and conventions, all of which ultimately facilitate increased spending and more jobs. The occupations most impacted by in-person activity include those in leisure, hospitality and retail. Additionally, the Pew report shows job growth will be dependent on the city's ability to help existing businesses expand, create new companies, attract events, boost research and development grants, draw real estate investors and retain its population.

The worst case scenario, dubbed "Stunted Recovery," details how Philadelphia could lose 34,000 jobs if there's low in-person activity.

Under the "Competitive Loss" scenario, the city risks losing 11,200 jobs if there's high in-person activity and low competitiveness. The "Uneven Gains" scenario shows 15,700 jobs being added as the result of low in-person activity and high attractiveness and competitiveness. It would see Philadelphia holding steady with the national economy and reaching 754,500 jobs. This falls in line with the city's projections included in its five-year plan.

The job projection — whether added or lost — is compared with pre-pandemic numbers in 2019.

The level of in-person activity will be largely contingent on Covid-19's unpredictable path and the ensuing rules and restrictions surrounding businesses, the Pew report notes.

Jobs most affected by the city's attractiveness and competitiveness include professional services, financial services, health care and transportation. Because of the size of these industries, Philadelphia's attractiveness and competitiveness may go a longer way in determining its economic recovery, the study suggests.

Red tape around opening and maintaining businesses as well as high taxes on real estate, workers and businesses have all been common complaints among Philadelphia's business owners for some time. By taking another look at the tax system as well as fiscal and regulatory policy, the city can attract more businesses and in turn increase in-person activity, the report notes.

In terms of how specific jobs are impacted by the scenarios, leisure and hospitality jobs have the most to lose and the least to gain. If Philadelphia finds itself in the "Stunted Recovery" scenario, the industry stands to lose some 15,400 jobs compared to 2019. If "Overall Growth" is achieved, the leisure and hospitality industry will not grow at all, but simply return to pre-pandemic levels, while retail could add some 1,100 jobs.

Meanwhile, the professional and business services sector could add over 21,000 jobs if "Overall Growth" is achieved, and lose only 3,700 if the city sees a "Stunted Recovery."

The study is the second installment in a series from Pew in collaboration with the William Penn Foundation titled "Philadelphia's Fiscal Future." The series will aim to be a resource for officials to help them decide whether and how to adjust fiscal policies to ensure that the city can provide services to its residents without deterring its growth.

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