Thursday, October 10, 2019

Latest Census Data Shows Lehigh Valley Leading Pennsylvania in Working-Age Population Growth

The latest data from the Census Bureau shows Pennsylvania continues struggling to lure in new industries and working age residents. The U.S. population aged 20-64 increased by 0.25% last year, but of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, only seven surpassed this growth rate and 55 experienced net declines.

The highest levels of working-age population growth (ages 20-64) occurred in the counties surrounding Philadelphia.

Lehigh Valley is the state’s fastest growing region for working-aged adults. The county grew by 0.5% in 2018, adding over 1,000 residents. The region has benefited tremendously from the logistics boom, adding around 16,000 transportation jobs this decade, doubling the number of transportation workers.

The latest population figures don’t surprise Lehigh Valley Economic Development Council President and CEO Don Cunningham.

"A lot of our growth has been from young people," Cunningham said. "Thirty percent of the population in our cities is between 18 and 34, and we have a lot of young people moving into the area for the jobs."

Cunningham believes that trucking is playing a role, but that other factors are at play in Lehigh Valley as well.

He said, "Distribution is definitely our fastest growing employment sector, but our biggest employers are in finance, insurance and real estate as well as advanced manufacturing. It doesn’t hurt that we’re also an hour and a half from New York City and Philadelphia."

This logistics growth is likely fueling central and northeast Pennsylvania’s population gains. In counties like Monroe, York and Lebanon, the trucking and distribution industries are generating new blue collar jobs sorely lacking in other parts of the state. This growth helps to attract residents from nearby counties, and helps local families remain in their hometowns rather than move to other parts of the country in search of viable employment.

Southeastern Pennsylvania counties including Berks, Chester, Philadelphia and Montgomery County also posted some of the highest levels of growth in 2018. While distribution employment is also on the rise in many of these locations, the Philadelphia area’s powerhouse healthcare and education industries continue to grow overall employment and support growing numbers of working age residents.

In contrast, the western portions of the state are too far from the New York and Philadelphia ports to support strong levels of trade and transportation employment. Lower income levels in counties around Pittsburgh have also made it more challenging for the city’s healthcare industries to grow as rapidly as those in Philadelphia.

Of the 10 counties showing the largest losses in working-age populations, eight are west of Harrisburg, and western Pennsylvania continues to struggle with population decline. Allegheny County lost about 4,000 prime workers in 2018, and the suburban counties orbiting the city did not fare much better. Even areas like Washington County, where there has been significant economic development as a result of drilling on the Marcellus Shale, are still losing working-age residents.

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