Philadelphia scores another victory - "Philadelphia beats Boston, San Francisco in attracting skilled workers, analysis finds" as reported in The Philadelphia Business Journal

Posted on 4/12/2018 by in News


Philadelphia beat out powerhouses like Boston and San Francisco in a new JLL Snapshot analysis of cities drawing the most highly skilled workers.

In the brief report released Wednesday, JLL used census bureau estimates to measure the growth of a specific segment of the city's population — adults over 25 with a bachelor’s degree in the region between 2012 and 2016. Coming in third place, Philadelphia saw that demographic increase 19.7 percent in those four years.

Washington D.C. squeaked ahead of Philadelphia with 19.9 percent rise and Denver led the ranking with a 22.5 percent increase in that population segment. Boston came in just below Philadelphia with 19.1 percent followed by Portland with 18.4 percent.

JLL’s Director of Research for Philadelphia Lauren Gilchrist said the data is important to employers who are dealing with the effects of the tight job market, she said.

The nation’s overall unemployment rate has held steady at 4.1 percent, which many economists consider full employment, but the unemployment rate for workers with a bachelor’s degree is far lower at 2.5 percent.

The lower that number grows, the harder companies have to work to fill open positions, including upping wage offers – which could have a ripple effect on their overall bottom line.

“You begin to see the real stress that companies experience in their ability to attract talent in order to grow their business,” Gilchrist said. “Quite frankly, this instability attracting talent could produce a real drag on a market’s economic growth over the mid-term as companies are unable to hire or they have to pay more to source the talent they need.”

She wanted to see how well Philadelphia was growing that crucial talent base in comparison to large talent hubs, especially when it comes to the tech industry. She wasn’t expecting the result.

“I was surprised to see the extent to which we’re outpacing some of the most important knowledge hubs in the country,” she said.

This is just a snapshot using census bureau estimates she said, but it at least shows, she said, that Philadelphia is holding its own.

“Just to even be considered in that same company as Boston when it comes to our ability to attract highly skilled populations speaks volumes to the quality of life that has developed in Philadelphia over these market cycles,” she said.

It's important to note that Gilchrist's analysis was limited to city limits, not large regional areas. That means San Francisco's increase of 12.9 percent doesn't include employees who live outside the city in the larger Bay Area region, where many major tech employers are located. Also, it’s no secret cities like Boston, San Francisco and New York already had large bases of highly skilled workers already in 2012, arguably leading to less of a need or capacity for larger increases in that specific metric.

Still, the analysis showed an important fact about the city of Philadelphia itself — it's growing its population of skilled workers at a high rate.

Gilchrist hypothesized that the region’s strong base of academic institutions play a role in that increase, citing a Campus Philly report from May of 2017 that showed 67 percent of college students here plan to stay after graduation, a nine percent increase from a similar survey conducted in 2010.

“What we see here is there’s more optimism about getting a job, and the more optimism about getting a job in Philadelphia there is, the more excitement there is about staying," Campus Philly President Deborah Diamond said when the report was released.

That’s a crucial metric to the region’s economy beyond just maintaining a strong job market. A 2015 Brookings Institution report found that a person holding a bachelor’s degree, on average, contributes $278,000 more to local economies in comparison with an average person with just a high school diploma just through what they directly spend in the region.

Michelle Caffrey
Philadelphia Business Journal