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Led by Gen Z, Lehigh Valley's Young Adult Population, Business Attractiveness Grows | WDIY Local News

John Schnobrich

The Lehigh Valley’s young population is growing, and a local leader says that’s good for its economic future.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. recently said that an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data determined that between 2020-2022, the number of people aged 18-34 in the Lehigh Valley grew by 3.2%.

That’s three times the rate of the region’s overall growth rate among all age groups.

Don Cunningham, LVEDC’s President and CEO recently spoke with WDIY about why the Lehigh Valley is attractive to both domestic and international businesses. He said that in addition to its location, a major benefit for the region is the availability of young talent.

“The under-35 cohort is huge, and then your talent supply link to your educational infrastructure is huge,” he explained, “and the Lehigh Valley checks all those boxes.”

Cunningham said regions that are in population decline are “starting behind the 8-ball,” and that companies may be more reluctant to relocate or stay there.

“Today we are the fastest growing region in PA, and one of the fastest of our size in the country for the growth of the much-sought after under 40, under 30,” Cunningham said.

The LVEDC said Gen Z, people aged 20-24 who are likely just entering the workforce, are the main drivers of this regional growth, with Northampton County adding 2,885 people in that age bracket since 2020, a 14% increase.

This surpassed Pennsylvania's growth rate of 3.5%, and the national rate of 3.3% for this specific demographic.

The agency also said the Lehigh Valley’s overall population increased to over 694,800 people in 2022, despite the state losing population during the pandemic.

A map showing the growth of the 18-34 age demographic in counties across Pennsylvania.
Contributed photo
Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.
A map showing the growth of the 18-34 age demographic in counties across Pennsylvania.

This increase has largely been due to immigration into the region. The LVEDC said from 2020-2022, Lehigh County was among the top 4% across the country for people moving into the county from international locations.

Northampton County, on the other hand, was in the top 4% in the national for having people move in from other U.S. countries.

“That’s a 180 from where we were before,” Cunningham said regarding the population growth, “if there’s a secret sauce which isn’t so secret, it’s having a growing population and a growing population of young people.”

Cunningham also said the increasing number of younger residents is also shaping the development of the region’s urban areas, which is in turn boosts the local talent pool.

“The downtowns, particularly of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton, have become more desirable for young people who want to live in urban areas,” he said. “Restaurants and nightlife, and cultural arts and walking trails and, you know, job opportunities and health care and all these things.”

“This younger generation, unlike many of the generations before, are happy to live in downtowns and walk to things…that’s mostly younger folks that are moving in, it’s driving that all-important growth of young talent into the market.”

The Lehigh Valley’s economy posted a record-high GDP of $47 billion in 2021. According to a statement the LVEDC released in late 2022, manufacturing is the largest contributing sector, with around $8.4 billion in outputs.

Other major sectors include finance, insurance and real estate, educational services, health care and social assistance, professional and business services, wholesale trade, information, retail trade, transportation, and warehousing.

(Original air-date: 9/1/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky was WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director until 2023.
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