Lehigh Valley’s payroll employment registers well above pre-recession levels and rising

Payroll employment in the ABE MSA reached a high of 346,100 (seasonally adjusted) in December 2007. As the Great Recession took hold, payroll employment in the ABE area dropped to a low of 331,700; a loss of 14,400 jobs.
Although the Lehigh Valley lost more than fourteen thousand jobs, it fared better than the national average. Between January 2008 and February 2010, nationwide payroll employment dropped by 6.3 percent, however, in the ABE area it was just 4.2 percent; a little less painful.

The 14,400 jobs that were lost in the region have been recovered, and as of May 2013 an additional 5,200 jobs have been added (a net gain of 1.6 percent). At the national level, 6.3 million jobs have been added (total gain of 4.9 percent), but still 2.4 million short of the high in January 2008. The ABE area, relative to the national average, lost fewer jobs during the Great Recession and has gained more jobs since the start of the recovery.

Why then doesn’t it feel like a recovery? The clear answer is that while the jobs created accounted for those that had been lost it didn’t take into consideration the influx of new graduates and others who were entering the labor force which boosted the total number of job seekers.

When we look at the math; the labor force expanded from 422,900 at the depth of the recession to 439,400 in May 2013, showing an increase of 16,500. To accommodate the 14,400 jobs lost during the Great Recession plus another 16,500 for newcomers to the job market; the creation of at least 30,900 jobs is required. The total gain in new payroll jobs was 19,600; an impressive number. However, when putting it into perspective it is still 11,300 jobs less than where we were in 2007 in terms of the unemployment rate.



A survey of local businesses shows that they are hiring and are planning to hire more people. Absent a major shock to the economy, we project that total employment in the ABE MSA will continue to grow at a better rate than the national average, at least for the balance of this year.