Philadelphia’s Steady, Uneven Recovery

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Philadelphia continues its slow, steady though uneven recovery at the start of the summer season. By April, payroll employment citywide rose to 95.6% of February 2020 levels, compared to 97.6% in the 11 county region and 99.2% in the nation. The lagging pace of local recovery reflects the slow rebound in leisure and hospitality employment, which remains down by 11%, and the ripple effects of remote work on those jobs that rely on the presence of other workers. Still, the unemployment rate continued to decline and local government benefitted from pronounced growth in wage, sales and hotel tax revenues.

The average daily volume of pedestrians in Center City reached 335,480, 81% of pre-pandemic levels by the third week of May, according to mobile phone location data. While shoppers, tourists and visitors were at 90% of January 2020 levels and downtown residents are fully present, non-resident workers remain the slowest to return, gradually rising to 52% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of May. The impact of remote work is reflected in SEPTA ridership, which remains at half of pre-pandemic levels and constrains the rebound of restaurant and retail sales, limits the recovery of jobs that cannot be performed remotely and poses potential long-term questions for the commercial office sector and the City’s fiscal stability. Overarching all is the continuing need citywide to address public safety challenges.

For a narrative of trends, along with explanatory charts tracking the recovery, download the 13-page report at- Philadelphia’s Steady, Uneven Recovery, May 2022.