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Want to hear something shocking? The number of jobs posted in the last 5 months in the Philadelphia Metro Area is, in real numbers, greater than the number of jobs posted in the same five months in 2019. You read that right. Job postings were up 28%, increasing from 152,870 postings in 2019 to 195,644 jobs in 2020, a gain of 42,774. But wait, isn’t there a pandemic? High unemployment? Weekly blog posts about the dire state of the labor market?
Turns out that both things are possible. The economy can be adding more jobs, while also experiencing huge shifts and high unemployment. As we have examined, the types of jobs employers are posting has changed significantly in the last few months. Unemployment was at record lows, and job growth was at record highs. Our benchmark comparison week, February 9th-15th 2020, was one of best weeks for job postings in the last 5 years. Even during a pandemic, there is work to be done.
However, the types jobs that are plentiful often do not provide the sustainable wages or stability needed for an economy to works for everyone. Further, shifts towards automation and gig work are accelerating rapidly. Some economists estimate the pandemic has sped up that transition by as many as 5 years. Outside of the ever-present need for Registered Nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants, 7 of the top 10 jobs that grew the most this year are in occupations that are considered “at risk” to automation. Together, they account for over 30% of the gains in 2020 job postings.
Certified Nursing Assistant
Class A CDL Truck Driver*
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
Retail Sales Manager*
*High automation risk – > 50% chance of automation by 2030.
It is worth pointing out that the three jobs which gained the most are largely dominated by one company, Amazon, with an assist from other large retailers who have been able to ramp up digital sales.
In the short term, these jobs pay the bills and are helping to keep unemployment below the levels some economists predicted at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we should not breathe a sigh of relief and think that we have managed to avoid a labor crisis. The pandemic is speeding up trends that require many workers today, but will require far fewer in the near future. Broadly, the work of our West Philadelphia Skills Initiative offers more than entry-level job training by helping people develop the skills needed to find, maintain, and grow in their careers, and not just for a specific position. This type of verstile, career-boosting training will be necessary to maintain a nimble workforce in the years to come.
About the data: Data is sourced from Burning Glass Technologies Labor Insights, unless otherwise noted, covering job postings in the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Metro Statistical Area (MSA), which is comprised of roughly a circle surrounding Trenton, Philadelphia, King of Prussia, Camden, and Wilmington. This data is then compared to a benchmark week of February 9th – 15th, which was the last week before the economic impact of COVID-19 began to be reflected in job posting data.