Welcome to the July 16 2021 edition of the UCD Data Digest. In this series, we publish data and findings from our research on topics tied to transportation, jobs, real estate, crime, and more. We are always looking for opportunities to learn, grow, and collaborate. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Last week, employers in the region posted just over 18,000 new openings – about 10% fewer than the pre-pandemic highs of around 20,000 new postings each week. Compared to the same week in 2020, job postings have nearly doubled, with 41% more new jobs posted in the first week of July 2021 compared to the first week in July 2020. Several of the top sectors in the Philadelphia Metro Area are posting more jobs than they were prior to COVID-19 lockdowns, including Accommodations & Food Service (+16%), Retail Trade (+10%), and Construction (+10%).
However, digging into the postings shows the openings are for jobs in different locations than they were in the winter of 2019/2020. So far this year, new job postings in the surrounding metropolitan area have far outpaced job postings in the city itself. This is especially true in some of the sectors most affected by sustained mandatory shutdowns and disruptions. The biggest sector, Health Care and Social Assistance, saw the number of new job postings in the city track closely with those in the surrounding area through most of 2020. However, employers in the sector ramped up hiring much more quickly in early 2021 and have had multiple weeks where new job postings have exceeded pre-COVID levels. Within the city, the sector has been slower to recover, still down about 20% from its pre-pandemic peak.
The differences between new retail jobs in the city and suburbs have been clear since the beginning. Last summer, Amazon posted tens of thousands of jobs at their warehouses, spiking the number of new job openings in the industry to record highs. Even as the city has reopened, new job postings in retail have held steady at pre-pandemic levels in the surrounding counties, while new retail job postings in Philadelphia are still down approximately 25%.
Finally, it’s time to check in on the sector arguably hit hardest by lockdowns – Hospitality. The number of job postings in the sector dropped rapidly in March of 2020, with new postings in the city falling by as much as 80%. The subsequent recovery in the sector has been concentrated outside the city. While postings in Philadelphia have crawled back up to 70% of their pre-COVID level, postings in the suburbs were nearly double this spring.
There is likely a multitude of factors leading to the divergence in job postings. The surrounding counties lifted restrictions including capacity limits earlier than the city, in some cases several weeks before Philadelphia. Other factors could include transportation – restaurants in the suburbs were more likely to already offer drive-thru options and curbside options, and typically have large parking lots to set up outdoor dining, while city eateries had to rely on delivery and temporary outdoor seating options like streeteries. The hospitality sector in Philadelphia is also tied closely to big events, which are just starting to make a comeback, and the universities, which won’t welcome their student bodies back for another month.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the city. Several industries have bounced back faster in Philadelphia than in the suburbs, including Education, Transportation, and Information Services. As with macro issues like the supposed labor shortages, inflation concerns, and supply chain issues, local economies have faced massive disruptions in the past year, and what may appear concerning today may very well bounce back to equilibrium in the coming months. However, it will be important to continue observing where the job growth is – and where it isn’t – as people begin to return to work.
About the data: Data is sourced from Burning Glass Technologies Labor Insights, unless otherwise noted, covering job postings in the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Metro Statistical Area (MSA), which is comprised of roughly a circle surrounding Trenton, Philadelphia, King of Prussia, Camden, and Wilmington. This data is then compared to a benchmark week of February 9th – 15th, which was the last week before the economic impact of COVID-19 began to be reflected in job posting data.