Thursday, October 3, 2019

Philadelphia Job Growth Slows Heading Into 2020

With construction activity ramped up throughout Philadelphia and with Center City’s restaurants packed, most residents maintain a positive feeling about the current health of Philadelphia’s economy.

But the pace of job growth has also been disappointing in recent months, with total jobs in the Philadelphia metropolitan area growing by 1.1% year-over-year as of August. This is well below the national pace and about half the rate of job growth achieved in Philadelphia just two years ago.

Store closures are hurting workers in the retail trade sector, which has lost 7,000 jobs over the past 12 months. Meanwhile, growth in the education and health services sector has slowed significantly, following the more than 2,500 layoffs tied to the closure of Hahnemann Hospital.

There are a few silver linings to the current labor market picture. The professional and business services sector is growing at some of the fastest rates observed during the current economic expansion. This category is comprised of high paying subsectors such as information technology, legal services, accounting and scientific research and development.
Moreover, much of the current slowdown in aggregate job growth is happening for a good reason. With the local unemployment rate now below 4%, it’s simply becoming difficult for companies to find available candidates.

All and all, Philadelphia’s labor market is awash in mixed signals, as is the overall U.S. economy. With profits among most of the region’s largest publicly traded companies remaining near record highs, a recession over the next several quarters looks unlikely.

But local job growth is slowing while the U.S. economy is also showing weakness in the manufacturing, agricultural and homebuilding industries. Election uncertainty could also be an increased drag on business investment in the quarters ahead.

All of this means that while recession signals are not imminent, Philadelphia’s economic outlook is less bullish heading into 2020 than it was heading into 2019.

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