Philadelphia’s population growth is driven, in part, by top talent

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The city is attracting highly skilled labor faster than Boston, Seattle or San Jose

It’s easy to feel like the Philadelphia CBD is swelling; new construction, competitive parking, and traffic congestion might be frustrating, but they also tell a story of a booming city. While census data tell us that Philadelphia’s modest growth is due more to rising birth rates than relocation, we know that Center City’s population is increasing, especially east of Broad Street.

Philadelphia's population growth

“The core Center City neighborhoods of Chinatown/Market East (19107) and Old City/Society Hill (19106) have all grown by around 40 percent since the start of the century, while Northern Liberties (19123) sprinted ahead of everyone, growing by 62.1 percent over the same period, facilitated by new housing stock,” JLL VP, Director of Research Lauren Gilchrist told Curbed Philly in February.

Now, after a new analysis of Census data last week, JLL has discovered an exciting finding about Philadelphia’s growth — we’re increasing our population of highly skilled workers at a faster rate than many people believed. In fact, these desirable employees are flocking to Philadelphia at faster rates than Boston, Seattle or San Jose.

Philadelphia's population growth 2

Lauren hypothesized that the region’s strong base of academic institutions plays 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 2017 report was released.

It’s important to note that the analysis was limited to the CBD and not large regional areas, as the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Michelle Caffrey points out. 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, she notes, cities like Boston, San Francisco, and New York already had established bases of highly skilled workers in 2012, possibly diminishing the need or capacity for large increases.

Caveats aside, the findings show that Philadelphia is holding its own.

“To even be considered in the 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 this market cycle,” said Lauren.

Read the full story in the Philadelphia Business Journal.