Despite tech job growth in Philadelphia last year, economist 'apprehensive' about future trajectory

Philadelphia's tech workforce is starting to rebound after losing close to 10,000 tech employees in 2021.

Despite tech job growth in Philadelphia last year, economist 'apprehensive' about future trajectory

According to a report by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, Philadelphia's technology workforce increased in 2022 as many tech companies went through a period of layoffs.

The report released on Wednesday found that the region's total number of tech jobs increased by 2.5%, or approximately 2,500, last year. Total tech employment in the region was at 103,220. Philadelphia's tech workers fluctuated in the last few years, reaching a peak of 110,000 workers in 2020 and then dropping by around 10,000 in 2021.

Mike Shields is the Research Director at the Economy League. He said that this fluctuation was likely caused by the fact tech workers were in demand at the peak of the Covid-19 epidemic in 2020. Burnout is likely to be a factor in the subsequent decline in 2021, according to Shields. The region is now working to get back to the numbers that were at their peak three years ago.

According to the Economy League, Greater Philadelphia's modest growth of 2.5% places it well behind its peer cities when it comes to tech employment. It is also the third-slowest metro area in the U.S. for growth. Greater Philadelphia's tech workforce grew more than San Diego or Baltimore compared to other peer cities.

Miami and Austin, however, led the pack with a growth of more than 14%. Some metros like Boston and Pittsburgh saw a decline in the number of tech employees.

As of today, tech jobs account for 3,7% of Greater Philadelphia’s workforce. Shields believes that the number of tech workers in the region will likely decrease over the next 12 months as layoffs in Silicon Valley, and other tech hubs, continue to ripple outward. Shields noted that Philadelphia typically experiences these economic trends one year later than the rest of the country. He said that he is "apprehensive" and "pessimistic", about the future of the local industry.

"Our economy reacts slowly to national trends. Shields stated that they are happening but their effects don't start to trickle until a year later. I hypothesize the same thing will occur in tech. The 2023 report may have some of these layoffs, but it won't be until 2024 when we will see them.

Shields believes that the lack of offices in Philadelphia for tech giants such as Meta, Amazon and Microsoft could actually be a positive thing.

We have "old" tech jobs. He said that this could be the saving grace for us. It won't save us, but it could help. There are probably a lot more tech workers at older, traditional anchor institutions which are the major employers of technology. They may contract, but will not disappear."

Shields noted that while the local tech workforce may shrink, steps such as apprenticeships and training can help prevent this and create more equal employment opportunities. He referred to workforce training in artificial intelligence and coding, which is available outside of college programs.

Shields stated that "tech offers opportunities for equity, inclusion, and DEI." It offers many opportunities to invest into tech training. We can grow even with tech contracting, because we are starting to grow.