Wells Fargo & Co., the dominant bank in the Philadelphia area, is hosting a big reception - the Forum for a Better Pennsylvania - this afternoon at the Waldorf-Astoria. Regional bank boss Hugh Long and his henchmen are running their event head-to-head with the Broadband-Cable Association's reception at Tonic on 7th Ave. Both are part of the yearly Pennsylvania Society political-business confabulation, which has taken place ever December for more than a century, in New York, of course. (More on the PA Society, including links to PaPolitics' event list, here.)

Coincidentally, the giant bank picked this morning to release updates of its regular reports on state economies, and Pennsylvania's prognosis remains weaker than other states. As Wells Fargo economist Jay Bryson writes, "Pennsylvania has lagged the country as a whole in terms of economic growth" for decades.
"We expect headline growth in the United States on the order of 2 percent or so for the next two years, which would translate into a subpar pace of economic growth in Pennsylvania as well," Bryson adds. "For now, sectors such as healthcare are helping to offset the hit from the recession in Pennsylvania, but the effect may not be long lasting as the population continues to age."
20% of Pennsylvanians work in healthcare or education, vs. 15% for the US as a whole. That makes us look recession-proof, but it's really a symptom of the state's weakness in generating private-sector jobs. And schools, hospitals and doctors are especially vulnerable to cuts in government spending. Though Bryson says that's mostly behind us.
This year, the old industrial centers of Pittsburgh, Reading and York have been adding jobs as US exports pick up. Philadelphia, with its greater dependence on hospitals, colleges and service industries (Comcast, Vanguard, Aramark, SunGard, and of course the law firms that so heavily influence state politics), is flat. The worst-performing area for job growth in recent months has been Williamsport, ironically the biggest town in the Marcellus Shale drilling belt. Scranton, Lancaster and Harrisburg are also below average. The Lehigh Valley has more empty homes (%) than any other PA metro area, probably due to the bubble in neighboring New Jersey.
Bryson praises Gov. Tom Corbett for refusing to raise taxes like California and other recession-wracked states, but notes it's still to be seen whether that actually succeeds in attracting more employers.
Also unclear: whether the Marcellus Shale drilling boom that Corbett and predecessor Ed Rendell did so much to invite, will end up creating permanent industrial jobs in Pennsylvania. So far, big PA-gas-using industries are being sited in West Virginia, Ohio and Toronto. The planned and threatened closings of the Delaware River Sunoco and Conoco refineries, and Exelon's shift from labor-intensive coal-fired power plants to automated gas-fired plants, aren't good signs for long-term traditional energy employment here.