Sep 16, 2022 - COVID

How Philly's pandemic recovery lags the nation

Change in OpenTable U.S. restaurant bookings since 2019
Data: OpenTable; Chart: Axios Visuals

Philadelphians saw promising signs of a rebound from the pandemic this summer, but headwinds persist as many of our industries trail the nation and region in recovery.

  • That's according to a new report by the Center City District and Central Philadelphia Development Corporation.

Let's break it down:

💼 Work: The U.S. as a whole has recovered all of the jobs lost during the pandemic, but Philly is still lagging.

  • The city has recovered 82% of the more than 126,000 jobs lost in the first two months of the pandemic, according to the report.
  • Total employment in the city is at 97% of where it was in February 2020, meanwhile, the 11-county metro has recovered to 99%.

Between the lines: The shortfall of 23,100 jobs isn't spread evenly across industries, Paul Levy, president of the Center City District, said in a statement.

  • Employment in business services, health care and construction are exceeding their pre-pandemic levels.
  • Yet retail, manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, transportation and local government have fewer jobs now than at the start of the pandemic.

🍽 Eat: Philly's restaurant industry continues to face challenges. Restaurant bookings are down 28% in the city compared to before the pandemic, according to new data from OpenTable.

  • But nationwide, dining out is back to pre-pandemic levels and then some, Axios' Emily Peck reports. The number of U.S. diners who reserved on OpenTable in August and September was higher than in the same months of 2019.

What they're saying: Many restaurants scaled back their hours to offset rising costs of goods and to address worker shortages, industry experts say.

  • Plus: The slow return of office workers in places like Center City, which relies on lunch and happy-hour crowds, is also hampering restaurants, per the report.
  • "We're talking about weeks and months of either no or severely reduced revenue," Ben Fileccia, of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, told Axios.
  • "Just because you can't get a reservation at your favorite restaurant or bar doesn't mean we're recovered," Fileccia said. "It's not over for a lot of these guys. It's going to take years for them to recover."

🛍 Play: The share of open businesses in Center City has recovered to 80%, as of June. That's not far off from the percent open at the end of 2019: 88%.

  • Plus: Center City has welcomed 175 new retailers since spring of 2020, including 43 just this year.
  • Retail sale collections have surpassed pre-pandemic levels citywide. Hotel tax collections are a bit slower to rebound, at 85%.

What to watch: Return-to-work efforts by major employers like Comcast and the corresponding impact on retail and restaurant sales in Center City, along with securing public safety, will determine Philly's recovery this fall, Levy told Axios.

  • "I'm in a cautiously optimistic mood," Levy said about the city's ongoing recovery.

Read the full report


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