When Mt Airy businessman Sam Katz ran for mayor in the 90s, he liked to point out that the size of government in Philadelphia did not reflect the reality that the city’s population had been in decline since the 1950s. In those years leading up to 2000, he was absolutely correct.
But things have changed since the city hit a low of 1.418 million in 1999. It has gained population little by little every year since and was last measured at 1.553 million in 2013 — a gain of 135,000 residents over that time period. A 77-page report released this week city by the Center City District shows that much of that population gain has been driven by a boom in Center City, which has seen its numbers growing steadily over the last 15 years.
Since 2000, the population of this area grew by 16% to 183,240 residents. Greater Center City now ranks second only to Midtown Manhattan in size of population among U.S. downtowns.
The region has seen a tremendous growth of college-educated young professionals that have make Center City more hip and educated than it’s been in some time. That’s a nice change of fortune for Philadelphia, which has gotten used to feeling a little inferior to other East Coast cities, from Boston to DC.
The one sour note of the report comes in the state of Philadelphia’s private sector job creation, which has been poor. While other cities have seen private sector job growth since 1990, Philadelphia has lost jobs
Between 1990 and 2013, Washington, D.C., Boston, and New York City added respectively 19.0%, 15.5%, and 14.2% to their private-sector totals, while Philadelphia lost 6.8%. Regional job growth has concentrated in the suburbs. While in 1990, Philadelphia held 28.1% of the region’s private-sector employment, that share fell to 23.6% by 2013.