Report: Loss of jobs threatens city, region

Posted: January 10, 2014

 One in four jobs have disappeared from Philadelphia since 1970, threatening the city's and the region's economic stability, according to a report released Wednesday by the Center City District.

The traditional explanation - the loss of manufacturing jobs - does not illuminate why Philadelphia's payrolls have shrunk so dramatically when the city's situation is compared with other Northeastern cities.

Boston, New York City, and Washington, the report said, have gained jobs in the last 40 years because they have been more successful in replacing factory jobs with work in other sectors.

In addition, the city is losing jobs compared with the suburbs.

In 1970, 43.3 percent of all regional jobs were in the city. That share was cut nearly in half by 2011, with 22.9 percent in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia has a higher poverty rate than New York, Boston, and Washington. Philadelphia also has the highest percentage of adults with only a high school diploma or less.

"Chronic job loss and rising poverty make doing nothing, or waiting for external factors, unacceptable options," the report said.

The report makes several recommendations, but, at the news conference Wednesday, Center City director Paul Levy said that any or all must be accompanied by changes in the city's tax structure.

"We have to address the tax reform issue," Levy said.

Philadelphia's taxing policies should be shifted away from taxing wages and profits toward more reliance on real estate and asset-based taxes, Levy said.

Other recommendations:

Improve educational and skills levels for all, with well-managed public education and job training programs. However, because city employers can also draw from the suburbs, a reasonable supply of skilled workers already exists.

Celebrate the influx of residents aged 25 to 34, but understand that most companies hire based on business conditions, not demographics.

Support the city's growing group of new proprietors so they can create jobs, but don't exaggerate their possibilities. Most small businesses employ no more than a handful of people.

Don't overly rely on "eds and meds." Hospitals and universities are subject to cutbacks in government funding. Instead, encourage their research capabilities and help them nurture those into jobs-producing endeavors.

"Market, demographic, and cultural trends have shifted in favor of diverse, walkable, transit-oriented places," the report said. "The lesson from Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., is that job decline is no longer the fate of older cities."



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