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The Post-Recession Blues

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Right Track.jpgPhiladelphia is having a case of the blahs.

I'd call it a post-recession depression. The latest Pew poll calls it a "downward drift" in Philadelphians attitudes about their city and its government.

It's easy to pinpoint why if you look at one telling question in the poll, which was taken last month and released Monday. When asked if they or anyone in their household had been without a job on the last 12 months, 52 percent answered "Yes."

There was a sharp racial divide on these (and other) numbers.  The out-of-work in the last 12 months number was 43 percent for whites, 57 percent for blacks and 59 percent for Latinos. 

In addition, 18 percent of those polled described themselves as unemployed and looking for work at the time they were polled.  Again, the number was 11 percent for whites, 24 percent for blacks and 29 percent of Latinos.

Now that's a jobless recovery.

Larry Eichel, head of the Pew's Philadelphia Research Initiative, noted that the 18 percent unemployment number may seem high (the official unemployment rate for the city averaged 11.5 percent in 2010), but it tracks with the underemployment rate compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

Underemployment, as defined by the government, includes people who are not actively looking for work or who work part-time, but would like full-time jobs. The national underemployment rate is 17 percent.

A Pew poll that asks a wide range of questions is taken once a year, so we can compare and contrast with previous years.  A full copy of poll can be found here.

To summarize, most of the indicators are down from previous years: Asked if they felt the city was headed in the right direction, people split down the middle: 40 percent said right track, 39 percent said wrong track.

In fact, Philadelphians are split close to even on a number of issues, namely:

Mayor Nutter.  Fifty-two percent of those polled said he was doing a good job, 37 percent said he was not. Again, there's a racial divide on the mayor: 64 percent of whites approve of the job he is doing, compared to 42 percent of blacks. (I guess we are truly in a post-racial era when a black mayor is unpopular with blacks.)

Public Pensions. The poll asked if newly hired city workers should get the same pension benefits as current employees.  Forty-five percent said they should, 44 percent said they should get less.

Casinos.  Do you favor a second casino in Philadelphia? Forty-two percent said they did, 47 percent said they were opposed.

Taxes and spending.  Asked if they favored fewer services and lower taxes or more services even if it meant higher taxes, 45 percent said they preferred wanted lower taxes, etc. while 44 percent favored more services.

Despite the blahs, Philadelphians remain surprisingly optimistic and resilient.  Sixty two percent of those polled said they view Philadelphia as a good or excellent place to live and 59 percent expect the city to be a better place five years from now.

 

-- Tom Ferrick 

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