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Philly outstrips New York in job growth

Break out the Bluecoat (or maybe the Brawler): Philly is outstripping New York in the rate of job growth. Will Philadelphia’s momentum last, or will its traditional troubles (less than stellar schools and the wage tax) stall progress?

Payrolls in Philadelphia expanded by an annual average of 2.8 percent between March 2016 and March 2017.
Payrolls in Philadelphia expanded by an annual average of 2.8 percent between March 2016 and March 2017.Read moreiStockphoto

Break out the Bluecoat gin — Philly is outstripping New York in job growth.

"I was very surprised to see it," said Ian Anderson, a fan of Fishtown's home-distilled Bluecoat and the director of research and analysis in Philadelphia for CBRE Group Inc., a commercial real estate company. Anderson crunched some U.S. Labor Department statistics, comparing job growth in the Big Apple with what's happening in the land of the cracked bell.

"I think it's wonderful," he said of the job news.

Payrolls in Philadelphia expanded by an annual average of 2.8 percent between March 2016 and March 2017, while in the five boroughs of New York City, payrolls grew by 1.8 percent. However, to put that in perspective, 1.8 percent growth in New York equals 75,900 jobs, while Philadelphia's 2.8 percent growth meant 19,200 jobs.

"The tables have completely turned," Anderson said. Between March 2015 and March 2016, New York's growth rate was 2.8 percent and Philadelphia's was 1.4 percent. One explanation? "Part of it is that the financial industry in New York has been a little sluggish of late."

Job Growth in Philadelphia vs. New York

For the first time in at least 25 years, the number of jobs in Philadelphia is growing at a much faster pace than in New York City.
Year-over-year change in annual average employment, not seasonally adjusted.
Staff Graphic

However, both Anderson and Adam Ozimek, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics in West Chester, attribute the growth to Philadelphia's growing popularity, which is encouraging employers to expand here.

"There's clearly optimism," said Ozimek, whose Friday Philly beverage of choice is Yards Brawler, a malt-forward ale brewed on Delaware Avenue. "It's a very exciting time to be watching the Philadelphia economy, that's for sure. It feels like there's a possibility that Philadelphia could be like one of those mega-cities," Boston, or Seattle, or, yes, even New York.

But, being analysts, both quickly sounded cautionary notes. "Whenever you see a boom, an economist always worries about a bust," Ozimek said. Both feared that Philadelphia's traditional troubles — the wage tax and a less-than-stellar school system —might stall momentum.

CBRE's research also pointed to two other growth trends for the region. While the area has always relied on "eds and meds," as in schools and health care, to generate jobs, regional hiring in that sector grew by 5 percent in recent months. That is growth on steroids, Anderson explained. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia alone added 600 jobs in the last year, he said.

And finally, Camden County has been adding jobs, with the rate of growth there outpacing the rate of growth in the Pennsylvania suburbs. "It's easy to have a big jump when you are coming out of a big slump," Ozimek said. Both Anderson and Ozimek said that the post-recession recovery was particularly slow in Camden, and that the region has just now reached its pre-recession employment levels.