April 8th | Posted In Policy

A Puny Report on a Pew Report

By admin

Pew recently released its State of the City 2014 Update. It’s a short and sweet update of some of the demographic trends in Philly. Here is YIP’s even shorter and sweeter report on Pew’s fascinating report, highlighting residential housing growth, population growth, job growth, and a decline in crime – all good things, but most in marginal amounts.  That means there is plenty more to be done to keep the city going down the right path.

Permits for 2,815 units of new residential housing, the most approved in a decade. Worth an estimated $465 million, the highest annual amount on record. This shows tremendous hope for city growth in the coming years (at least amongst home builders) despite a relatively small uptick in residential unit sales. The last time residential building permit levels were this high was 2004, at the start of the 2004-2006 regional housing boom. That boom was the start of the reversal of Philadelphia’s population decline, and it occurred despite large job losses at the same time. 2004 saw a 13.5% drop in job growth, following a 12.1% drop the year prior. While job growth remains anemic, at least its growth – the city added 3,800 new jobs in 2013 and total employment finally surpassed pre-recession levels.

When you compare Philadelphia’s unemployment rate to the US (or even the  just metro area), you see that things are stickier here. Philadelphia employers were slower to cut jobs during the recession, but have also been slower to bring them back since. This isn’t surprising in a town with large union workforce – the same rules that make it difficult to fire make employers slower to hire.

Homicides were down 25 percent, to 247, the lowest since 1968. But they rose again during the first quarter of 2014. The drop in homicides was significantly sharper than the drop in violent crimes over all, which fell by 3%, and overall crimes, which dropped to 4%. Both the violent crime and overall crime rates are about average with other large cities.

Poverty is down to 27 percent of the city’s population, but that’s still the highest of the nation’s 10 most populous cities.

Given that crime is down, and investment up, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that Philadelphia’s population rose for 7th straight year to 1,553,165. However, the rate of growth slowed, caused largely by domestic migration.

Residents 20-34 remain 26% of the population. With another 26% under the age of 20, 52% of the city is young.  145,326 of them were enrolled in college or graduate school – 9% of the city is in college.  That’s huge, both as an economic driver – please spend your parent’s cash, kids – and as a potential pool of educated employees and potential entrepreneurs.

What’s the net effect of all this?  More cautious optimism.  There are plenty of good trends, but enough dark linings to our silver clouds to concern us all.

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