Philadelphia Businesses See Modest Pandemic Recovery in Third Quarter, but Job Growth


Philadelphia’s businesses continued to show modest signs of recovery from the economic impact of the pandemic in the third quarter of 2021, according to credit and jobs data recently published as an update to Pew’s dashboard ;that tracks key city indicators. Some sectors continued to struggle more than others in terms of financial stability criteria and job gains, while some neighborhoods were improving at faster rates than others.

Here are some key takeaways from an analysis of the third quarter credit data and October jobs numbers:

Overall, the share of city business establishments that were delinquent in paying their bills fell slightly in the third quarter, median credit balances rose somewhat, and financial stability held steady. Bankruptcy filings remained low. At the same time, preliminary October numbers in the dashboard’s job chart show that the total number of jobs continued to hover around 8% below pre-pandemic levels.

Philadelphia's Total Jobs Remain Below Pre-Pandemic Levels. Percentage change in jobs compared with same month in 2019.

Wholesale and transportation firms had a mildly positive September as they dealt with the supply chain crunch. The share of establishments in this sector that were delinquent in paying bills fell slightly and credit balances rose, continuing a generally positive trend since the end of 2020. In employment, the transportation and warehousing sector posted 6% growth in jobs from August to September but a slower 1% estimated growth from September to October. Employment in the sector in October’s preliminary estimate stood at 12% below pre-pandemic levels, compared with 16.8% below in October 2020.

Philadelphia Transportation and Warehousing Jobs in Slow Recovery. Percentage change in jobs compared with same month in 2019.

There is a glimmer of recovery hope for hotels, restaurants, and bars: Slightly fewer of them were severely delinquent on their bills in September compared with the previous quarter. Meanwhile, the sector held steady in financial stability and credit activity. The number of jobs increased at a modest pace in recent months. But the hospitality industry remained in shakier condition than most others, and preliminary employment figures for October still showed total jobs at 31% below pre-pandemic job levels.

Philadelphia's Hospitality Industry Jobs Remain Well Below Pre-Pandemic Numbers. Percentage change in jobs compared with same month in 2019.

The information sector—which includes cable, internet, and phone providers—had about 4% more jobs in October’s preliminary data than before the pandemic, one of the strongest showings. At the other end, jobs in the arts and recreation sector were 32% below their level in October 2019. Still, that’s not as steep a drop as the 58% low point reached in December 2020 compared with December 2019.

Philadelphia's Information Sector Jobs Have Rebounded, While Arts Sector Employment Remains Low. Percentage change in jobs compared with same month in 2019.

In terms of location, Center City East (19103) and University City (19104) showed the strongest signs of recovery in September, with the share of businesses severely late on their bills falling and median credit balances rising. Manayunk (19127), where the share of businesses in delinquency had been dropping earlier this year, slowed its improvement in September, perhaps because of flooding there. Among areas still struggling were Oxford Circle/Mayfair (19149), where businesses in September reached their highest delinquent share yet. In addition, their financial stability remained below the citywide average.

Much work remains to be done to help the city’s businesses and residents recover from the pandemic, but the latest data shows slight movement in the right direction. Pew will continue to post new findings as it tracks the city’s economic recovery and growth in the age of COVID-19.

Elinor Haider is the director and Thomas Ginsberg is a senior officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia research and policy initiative,


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