When you boil it down, there are two kinds of jobs for Philadelphians.
The first is the kind where you can walk, bike, take a bus or drive to a destination in town. The second is where you have to travel out of the city to work.
It used to be the first kind was the most abundant. Back in the day, the neighborhoods had plenty of employment opportunities, mostly in the form of large manufacturing plants. [In the 1930's, nearly 40 percent of Kensington residents walked to work.]
That hasn't been true for 50 years -- and it is becoming less true as each day passes.
Today, they are fewer jobs in the city, so Philadelphians have to leave town to work: each day 38 percent of Philly residents commute out to jobs in the suburbs and elsewhere.
In some neighborhoods, such as the Northwest and Northeast, the numbers approach 50 percent.
I call these one-foot-out-the-door workers. They are already traveling out of the city to work in
Census data shows that in the period between 2000 and 2010, the number of Philadelphians working out of town increased by 60,000.
As the same time, the number of Philadelphians who work in the city declined by 96,000.
Here are the numbers writ large: As of 2010, 333,877 Philadelphians worked inside the city and 201,776 worked outside the city limits.
Why is this so?
The simple answer is: there aren't enough jobs within
It isn't all bad news. As Paul Levy, head of the Center City District put it, the city has strong "nodes of employment" that generate a huge number of jobs.
And then nothing. As the CCD report reveals, outside of
Levy's shop is masterful at generating numbers. And while each report has different lyrics, the melody is the same --
Entrepreneurship is stifled. Innovation is punished. We cannot compete with the suburbs, let along the rest of the world.
In the short run, it is good that so many Philadelphians are working in the burbs -- at least they are working. In the long run, though, it means that if a worker has a job outside the city, his or her family may soon follow. The downward spiral of job loss leads inevitably to a downward spiral of the city. We lose the wealth we need to support and sustain city services.
So, the next time you are sitting on the Schuylkill Expressway driving into the city, take notice of the crowded westbound lane headed out. That is a snapshot of the future of
-- Tom Ferrick