Lehigh Valley GDP hits record $47B in 2021

The Lehigh Valley economy is booming according to new data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. 

With manufacturing making up the largest part of the region’s economy in 2021, the region’s Gross Domestic Product soared to a record $47 billion. 

The GDP measures total market value of the goods and services produced in a region over a year. 

With an economic output of $8.4 billion, manufacturing has now overtaken finance, insurance and real estate as the Lehigh Valley’s top contributor to the GDP, according to the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. 

Manufacturing made up 18% of the Lehigh Valley’s private sector output compared to 12% in the nation as a whole last year. 

The GDP of the Lehigh Valley’s top four sectors were still within about $2.5 billion of each other, indicating a balanced and vibrant economy. 

“It seems that each year a new chapter is written on the economic renaissance of the Lehigh Valley,” said Don Cunningham, president & CEO of the LVEDC. “2021 was another record-setting year with the region’s GDP increasing by almost $5 billion and manufacturing taking the top spot as the Lehigh Valley’s largest economic sector.” 

The private sector economic output has recovered from the adjusted figure of $42.5 billion during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. After factoring in inflation, the GDP rose by 6.4% from 2020 to 2021, Cunningham said. 

The Lehigh Valley metro region includes Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon and Warren counties. Lehigh and Northampton County make up $40.6 billion of the metro region’s $47 billion private sector output. 

Cunningham noted that the Lehigh Valley’s private sector output is the 65th largest in the nation and is bigger than the entire states of Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming. 

If the Lehigh Valley were a country, its economy would be the 88th largest in the world, he said. 

Following manufacturing, the largest sectors in the Lehigh Valley’s GDP: 

  • Finance, insurance and real estate ($8.1 billion)
  • Educational services, health care and social assistance ($6.9 billion)
  • Professional and business services ($5.9 billion)
  • Wholesale trade ($3.7 billion)
  • Information ($3 billion)
  • Retail trade ($3 billion)
  • Transportation and warehousing ($2.7 billion)

One sector that had yet to recover from the pandemic was arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services. Among the hardest during the pandemic-induced downturn, Cunningham said that sector produced an output of $1.8 billion last year. 

He said the Lehigh Valley’s output has been steadily rising over the last five years, even when accounting for the drop during the pandemic. The Lehigh Valley’s private sector output has increased at a compound annual rate of 1.4% over the last five years.  


Outdoor recreation provides Pa. with economic surge

Outdoor recreation contributed $13.64 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy, accounting for 152,000 jobs, and 1.6% of the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced Thursday.  

The figures are per the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) statistics and represent an increase of 22% from 2020. 

Supported by recreational assets, diversified economy, marketing, retail, and tourism, Pennsylvania has the sixth largest outdoor recreation economy in the country. Pennsylvania Director of Outdoor Recreation Nathan Reigner said in a statement that this recent round of economic data proves that the state’s outdoor recreation is the product of landscapes and partnerships. 

“Outdoor recreation continues to be a thriving and significant industry within the commonwealth and this data helps us better understand what we are doing well, while also providing guidance on where we can grow this industry for its own sake and to improve the lives of Pennsylvanians,” said Reigner. “Unlike economic development through other industries, development through outdoor recreation also stimulates physical health, mental wellbeing, social cohesion, and environmental sustainability.” 

Recreational vehicle (rv) camping comprises the greatest single contribution among core outdoor activities to the state’s outdoor economy. The rv contribution represented more than $700 million in value in 2021, a 17% increase over 2020. Boating and fishing ($555 million), hunting, shooting, and trapping ($354 million), ATV and motorcycle riding ($304 million), serve to create substantial economic contributions. Additional recreational activities spur economic productivity in supporting industries, including nearly $4 billion from travel and tourism activity and more than $1 billion from local recreational trips made by Pennsylvanians. 

Outdoor recreation accounts for approximately 3% of jobs in America and $862 billion in economic output nationally. Jessica Turner, president of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), said BEA data emphasizes the importance of investing in public lands, waters, and infrastructure for all types of recreation in Pennsylvania. 

“From the creation of jobs and increased profit for small businesses in local economies to larger boons to the state’s economy, this sector is a consistent driver, even in times of economic uncertainty,” said Turner. “The strength of the outdoor recreation economy reflects what many in the industry have long known to be true: there are infinite benefits that come from more people spending time outdoors, and they’ll only grow with continued investment.” 

Recreation activities are diversifying, Reigner noted, with new users inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic and empowered by new recreation technologies from advanced gear to more readily available information. An increase in remote work has made possible recreation-based lifestyles that attract remote workers to become new residents in communities with recreational opportunities.

Pennsylvania’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, created by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, will seek to utilize collaboration with other government agencies, businesses, communities, economic developers, user groups, and recreation resource managers to grow the state’s outdoor economy. 

“Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation economy is large, diverse, and not well connected to either state government or the economic development community,” said Reigner. “It is our job in the Office of Outdoor Recreation to be a partner for Pennsylvania’s outdoor economy, to understand its needs and help it prosper so it can deliver the benefits of good health, vibrant communities, conserved and connected natural resources, and entrepreneurship opportunities.” 

Reigner said there is room for improvement in Pennsylvania ranking seventh in in the U.S. for total compensation for outdoor recreation work and 38th in rate of compensation growth.

Lehigh Valley’s 2019 GDP hits record $43.3 billion

It’s hard to think of an “economic renaissance” while mired in the middle of a global pandemic, but numbers just released by the U.S. Department of Commerce show a strong Lehigh Valley Economy.

Don Cunningham, president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., said the region had a record-breaking GDP of $43.3 billion in 2019. That’s 5.7% over 2018 and the Lehigh Valley outpaced Pennsylvania’s growth of 4%.

The Lehigh Valley’s GDP was also larger than that of three states, Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming.

Of course, since it takes the Department of Commerce almost a year to report GDP numbers, Cunningham said much has changed, especially since March when the COVID-19 pandemic led to the months-long shutdown of many businesses.

“We would expect that number to be less in 2020,” Cunningham said.

Still he said the region is faring far better than many.

“A lot of the sectors that are driving that GDP in the Lehigh Valley have not slowed down as much,” he said.

Industries like manufacturing, health care and real estate have been holding their own, while ecommerce has grown drastically creating local construction and job opportunities in the logistics field.

According to the Department of Commerce, the largest output from the Lehigh Valley was from the Manufacturing sector.

The Lehigh Valley manufacturing sector’s output of more than $7 billion in 2019 ranked 52nd among U.S. markets, more than 10 places higher than the region’s overall ranking.

He noted that Lehigh Valley’s economy ranks 65th among the 384 metropolitan areas in the United States, still an impressive ranking for a region of its size.

Other large contributors include finance, insurance and real estate sector at $7.8 billion, a 3.2% increase, health care and education at $6.4 billion and professional and business services at $5.4 billion.

The health care and education sector – which includes several of the Lehigh Valley’s largest employers – grew by 5.4%. The professional and business services sector grew by 7.7%.

The hospitality industry, including restaurants and hotels, have been struggling, however, and Cunningham said that is the real bad news in the local economy.

“The GDP is just one factor of the economy. Numbers are never the whole story. People need to be working,” he said.

He noted that many people in the hospitality industry that may have lost their jobs are able to find work in other industries, such as logistics, but that doesn’t mitigate the pain of losing a job and having to start over in a new industry.

“Hopefully we’ll see a return of the sectors that have been hardest hit,” he said.

He does have hope for the future of the Lehigh Valley economy.

“What’s happened in 2020 will slow us down a little bit in the economic growth we’ve seen, but it won’t stop it,” he said.

Regional GDP for 2020 won’t be released until next December, but national quarterly GDP data does provide some indications of how Lehigh Valley’s economy could be been impacted, he said. The national GDP in 2020 fell by 5% in the first quarter and 31% in the second quarter but climbed to 33% in the third quarter.

New Commerce Department report shows increased GDP in Pa. counties in 2018

All counties in Central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley saw at least some positive growth in GDP from 2017 to 2018.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has released its first Local Area Gross Domestic Product report of 2018 that looks at GDP by counties across the country, and the statistics show Pennsylvania counties in the region are seeing increases in wealth.

Created by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the GDP by county statistics is an addition to the bureau’s analysis of GDP by metropolitan statistical areas, or MSAs, previously occurring each September. GDP by MSA will now be made available with the release of GDP by county statistics, set to be released each December.

The report, which measures the value of goods and services produced within a county, will offer a more complete picture of local area economic conditions when coupled with the BEA’s county estimates of personal income, officials said.

All counties in Central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley saw at least some positive growth in GDP from 2017 to 2018.

  • Berks – 2017 GDP: $17.9 billion. 2018 GDP: $18.4 billion. Percentage change: 3%. State rank: 11th.
  • Carbon – 2017 GDP: $2.1 billion. 2018 GDP: $2.2 billion. Percentage change: 4.2%. State rank: 43rd
  • Cumberland – 2017 GDP: $13.5 billion. 2018 GDP: $13.8 billion. Percentage change: 2.5%. State rank: 14th.
  • Dauphin – 2017 GDP: $20.6 billion. 2018 GDP: $21.1 billion. Percentage change: 2.6%. State rank: 9th.
  • Lancaster – 2017 GDP: $25.7 billion. 2018 GDP: $26.4 billion. Percentage change: 2.6%. State rank: 7th.
  • Lebanon – 2017 GDP: $5.4 billion. 2018 GDP: $5.6 billion. Percentage change: 3.4%. State rank: 24th.
  • Lehigh – 2017 GDP: $21.1 billion. 2018 GDP: $21.6 billion. Percentage change: 2.7%. State rank: 8th.
  • Northampton – 2017 GDP: $12.1 billion. 2018 GDP: $12.4 billion. Percentage change: 2.2%. State rank: 16th.
  • Schuylkill – 2017 GDP: $4.6 billion. 2018 GDP: $4.8 billion. Percentage change: 2.5%. State rank: 29th.
  • York – 2017 GDP: $18.3 billion. 2018 GDP: $18.6 billion. Percentage change: 2%. State rank: 10th.

According to the new report, real GDP increased in 2,375 counties, decreased in 717 and was unchanged in 21 in 2018. The percentage change in real GDP ranged from 86.5% in Jackson County, W.V., to -44.0% in Grant County, N.D. Officials said the construction industry was the leading contributor to Jackson County’s growth, while the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry was the leading contributor to the decrease in Grant County.

In 2018, the total level of real GDP ranged from a low of $18.4 million in Issaquena County, Miss., to $710.9 billion in Los Angeles County, Calif.