While economic indicators remain high for the U.S. economy as a whole, the central and southeastern Pennsylvania regions have been beset by tumultuous global trade and a weak manufacturing sector for the last year and a half, according to a recently published study by analysts at RKL, with an office in Spring Township.
“Though the U.S. economy has demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of a weakening global economy, a slumping U.S. manufacturing sector and political turbulence domestically and abroad, central and southeastern Pennsylvania have not fared quite as well,” according to RKL’s analysis.
In coordination with Sage Policy Group of Baltimore, RKL analyzed 10 metro areas in central and southeastern Pennsylvania: Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, Chambersburg-Waynesboro, Gettysburg, Harrisburg-Carlisle, Lancaster, Lebanon, Reading, York-Hanover, Philadelphia and Montgomery, Bucks and Chester Counties.
Over the past six months, these regions have added an average of 2,200 net new jobs per month, a 44 percent slower growth rate than 2018, according to RKL’s report. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the region lost 1,500 positions on net in October.
Major metropolitan areas have generally seen the highest rates of job growth, reflecting a nationwide trend of “disproportionate levels of job growth in major urban areas,” in part because of their “broad appeal to millennials,” the study reports. From October 2018 to October 2019, Harrisburg, York and Lancaster exhibited “anemic” economic growth, 0.2%, -0.1% and 0% respectively, compared to Philadelphia’s 1.5% job growth during the study’s 12-month period.
The Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton region follows this trend, with a 0.3 percent increase in job growth from October 2018 to 2019. The central and southeastern part of Pennsylvania as a whole has enjoyed a low rate of unemployment, with most counties coming in below the 4% unemployment mark.
What jobs have been added lately have been concentrated in education and health services, according to the study, which noted central and southeastern Pennsylvania are home to “a number of large and expanding medical systems.”
At 16,949 jobs added from June 2018 to June 2019, these sectors added more than triple the quantity added by the next sector—professional and business services, which added 5,234 jobs during the same 12-month period.