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Report: Regional GDP for private sector grows to record-high of $39.1B

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33 Logistics Park at Chrin Commerce Centre is under construction in Palmer Township. Logistics,  transportation and warehousing were the fastest growing segments of the Lehigh Valley Economy. (file photo)
33 Logistics Park at Chrin Commerce Centre is under construction in Palmer Township. Logistics, transportation and warehousing were the fastest growing segments of the Lehigh Valley Economy. (file photo)

A recent report from a federal agency shows the Lehigh Valley’s economy topping nearly $40 billion.

Data released on Wednesday by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis show the Lehigh Valley’s gross domestic product (GDP) for private sector industry has grown to a record-high $39.1 billion for 2016, according to Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., which obtained and analyzed the figures.

That number shows a more than 4 percent increase over the previous year. The numbers are broken down by metropolitan statistical area, and aside from Lehigh and Northampton counties, also include Carbon County and Warren County, N.J., in the mix.

The regional GDP saw year-over-year growth in each individual subsector, reflecting the remarkable balance of the Lehigh Valley economy, said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of LVEDC.

“It shows there’s a lot of economic output coming out of this region,” Cunningham said. “The Lehigh Valley economy remains very well-balanced. We are continuing to grow. Every area grew, there’s really no weakness in it,” Cunningham said, referring to the various sectors that were analyzed. “Clearly logistics, transportation and warehousing was the fastest growing.”

However, it was not the largest sector. That title belongs to finance, insurance and real estate, which is once again, the largest sector in terms of GDP, having reached $8 billion, or about 20 percent of the total economy.

Manufacturing continues to grow in the Lehigh Valley, making up an even larger percentage of the regional economy than last year, he added.

The Lehigh Valley economy now ranks 65th out of the 382 largest metropolitan areas in the nation, compared to ranking 73rd last year.

The Lehigh Valley GDP is now larger than that of Wyoming ($38.5 billion) and Vermont ($31.5 billion), as well as 108 other countries in the world. If the Lehigh Valley were a country, it would be the 87th largest in the world in terms of economic output, Cunningham said.

Manufacturing, which is the region’s second-largest sector, also saw growth over the previous year. It is now $6.9 billion, or nearly 18 percent of the total regional GDP. Last year, manufacturing only accounted for 15 percent of the GDP.

LVEDC provided a breakdown of the total GDP by subsector, as well as the rate of year-over-year growth:

  • Finance, insurance, and real estate: $8 billion (+5.9 percent)
  • Manufacturing: $6.9 billion (+2.6 percent)
  • Education and healthcare: $5.3 billion (+4.6 percent)
  • Professional and business services: $5.3 billion (+4.2 percent)
  • Retail trade: $2.3 billion (+3.2 percent)
  • Information: $1.9 billion (+1.6 percent)
  • Transportation and warehousing: $1.9 billion (+9.5 percent)
  • Arts, accommodation, and food services: $1.6 billion (+5.4 percent)

LVEDC said manufacturing year-over-year growth was led by a 4.5 percent increase in non-durable goods manufacturing. This includes food and beverage and chemical products, which reflects two of the target sectors of the Lehigh Valley.

The federal agency reported that goods-producing industries in the Lehigh Valley economy increased by 3.4 percent, while service-producing industries increased by 4.4 percent.

George Lewis, LVEDC director of research and analysis, analyzed and presented the data. GDP rankings of other countries come from the World Bank. The federal agency adjusts its figures to account for new information and projections, so numbers that have been reported for previous years may have been changed or adjusted over time, LVEDC said.

2016 is the most recent year for which measurable GDP data is available. The $39.1 billion GDP figure does not account for government spending.

LVEDC uses the data to gain an understanding of the region’s economy, Cunningham said.

“This really helps us inform strategically what we are doing in the region,” Cunningham said.

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Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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