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The largest job losses during the pandemic in Philadelphia were in the office and administrative support sector. Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

A Pew Charitable Trusts report has found that pandemic-related job loss in Philadelphia primarily impacted low and middle-wage jobs, disproportionately affecting workers who are Black, female, or lack formal education. 

According to the report, the largest job losses during the pandemic have been in the office and administrative support sector — which contains the most middle-wage occupations in the city. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the amount of office and administrative support jobs will decrease by 2.8% by 2030 — the most of any job category.

The report also said that Philadelphia’s local employment is recovering slower than the national average. The total number of jobs in Philadelphia remains far below pre-pandemic levels, two years after its inception. 

The report, which was released on Nov. 16, compared middle-wage employment in Philadelphia with New York, Baltimore, Washington, San Francisco, and Nashville. While the percentage of workers earning middle-wage incomes is similar in these cities, Philadelphia has fewer middle-wage jobs compared with the size of the working-age population, suggesting that they may be more difficult to find.

This issue represents the continuation of pre-pandemic trends. While Philadelphia had approximately 150 middle-wage jobs for every 1,000 working-age residents before the pandemic, Baltimore, Washington, San Francisco, and Nashville all had greater than 200. As 18% of Philadelphian workers do not have access to vehicles, the lack of nearby job opportunities is "especially challenging," Pew Charitable Trusts reported.

Senior Advisor of Pew Charitable Trust’s Philadelphia research and policy initiative Larry Eichel told The Philadelphia Inquirer that middle-wage job growth generally takes place alongside overall economic growth. 

Any policies that target economic growth with the goal of increasing the amount of middle-wage jobs must prevent middle-wage jobs from stagnating, according to Eichel. Though Philadelphia experienced economic growth throughout the 2010s, it did not result in substantially more middle-wage jobs. 

“What we found was that middle-wage job growth relies on overall job growth,” Eichel said. “If you help grow the economy overall, you’ll get additional middle-wage jobs.”