With Pennsylvania’s population decreasing in many areas over the last decade, Lehigh Valley’s population grew more than any other region – primarily among millennials and Gen Zers.
Among the 67 counties in Pennsylvania, Lehigh County led in growth among young adults at 12%, and Northampton County came fourth at 8.8%, according to an analysis by Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. (“LVEDC”). Additionally, Lehigh and Northampton counties were the only two among Pennsylvania’s 20 counties that saw population growth through the 2010s. Allentown saw a higher percentage of growth than any other city in the state except for Philadelphia.
Growing Young Population a Boon to Companies
The growth in Lehigh Valley’s young population represents a 180-degree turn from the 1990s and early 2000s, when a good chunk of that population left due to the lack of job opportunities, said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of LVEDC. Cunningham felt that the increase in the young population of Lehigh Valley is good, as it will attract and retain major businesses. “In every growing market, the No. 1 issue for companies is the availability of the workforce,” Cunningham said.
The report released by LVEDC shows that much of Lehigh Valley’s population is of prime working age, ranging from 25-54 years old. The population of this age group is projected to grow about 0.6% annually through 2034. “These demographics of growth of population bode well for economic growth and growth in the right types of job creation that we’re looking for,” said Cunningham.
“In downtown Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton, we’re seeing a lot of demand for rental units, a shortage of rental units, and rental units are being filled as quickly as they’re being built, which is indicating in real-time there’s a big movement and demand for housing for younger workers,” Cunningham added.
Primary Reasons for the Increase in Population in the Valley
During the pandemic, when many were working from home, people from major urban cities moved to places with lower living costs and lower populations. The LVEDC report revealed that during 2020, Lehigh Valley’s population saw an increase of 14% through the migration of young workers out of the New York market. Cunningham noted the possibility of these migrated workers moving to jobs within the Valley.
Immigrants in the Lehigh Valley
Seven percent of Pennsylvania residents are immigrants, while 9% of residents are native-born U.S. citizens with at least one immigrant parent. Lehigh County is amidst the top 1% of the counties in the country for immigration, according to LVEDC. Immigration led to a growth of about 14,997 in net population in the Lehigh Valley over the last decade. During that time, the Valley has also witnessed the growth of international migration. Local companies sponsor immigrants on work-based visas.
Cunningham also pointed out that the majority of international immigration is due to Puerto Ricans relocating to the Lehigh Valley because of natural calamities. Though Puerto Rico is a part of the United States, the Census Bureau counts the movement from the island as international.