By Christopher Harper
After living in Philadelphia for the past 15 years, it’s difficult for me not to look at the news there.
Unfortunately, almost all of the news is bad!
According to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ annual State of the City report, Philadelphia’s average unemployment rate last year trailed only Detroit and Cleveland among 10 major U.S. cities.
Philadelphia’s average unemployment rate of 12.2% was more than four points above the U.S. average, compared with a difference of less than two points in 2019.
The jobless statistics suggest that Philadelphia faces a more challenging economic situation than similar cities. Washington, for example, had slightly higher unemployment than Philadelphia before the pandemic. But the nation’s capital saw its average jobless rate increase just 2.4 percentage points last year, while Philadelphia’s increased by seven points.
Pew did not explain why Philadelphia fared worse than other cities. But it noted the sectors that helped fuel the city’s resurgence during the last decade — hospitality, restaurants, and arts and culture — shut down early in the pandemic. Philadelphia also faces high poverty rates, lower educational attainment, and other issues.
But there’s more bad news.
Another Pew study found that the pandemic hit Philadelphians hard in ways that affect their jobs, economic security, and mental and physical health. See https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2020/10/how-covid-19-has-undercut-philadelphians-physical-and-financial-well-being
After the deaths of civilians at the hands of police and the resulting civil unrest, Philadelphia residents said they feel less safe in their neighborhoods than at any other time in recent memory.
Only 49% of Philadelphians say they feel safe outside in their neighborhoods at night, the lowest figure Pew has recorded in more than a decade of polling. Typically, the percentage has been in the 55% to 60% range. Blacks and Hispanics said they are less likely to say they feel safe than in past surveys.
More than 40% of Philadelphians say that events related to the pandemic and the demonstrations have made the city a less desirable place to live. Amazingly, about two-thirds of the population said they expect to be living in the city five to 10 years from now.
Maybe they feel trapped by family or a job. Whatever the case, I feel fortunate that my wife and I could get out of Dodge!