Fewer jobs are available within the typical commuting distance from cities

     Commuters wait on a platform to board a SEPTA train. (NewsWorks file photo)

    Commuters wait on a platform to board a SEPTA train. (NewsWorks file photo)

    Most people in U.S. metro areas live near fewer jobs than they used to, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution.

    Most people in U.S. metro areas live near fewer jobs than they used to, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution.

    “Between 2000 and 2012, the number of jobs within the typical commute distance for residents in a major metro area fell by 7 percent,” the report says.

    The report looks at how many jobs were located within the median commute from individual neighborhoods in 2012. The researchers compared that number with the number of nearby jobs from 2000.

    In the Allentown—Bethlehem—Easton region, there was a 12.4 percent increase in the number of jobs within the typical commute. In the Scranton metro region, the number of jobs increased 0.8 percent.

    Pittsburgh saw a 0.8 percent decline. Philadelphia—Camden—Wilmington declined 10.1 percent.

    The typical commute varied depending on the region. Around Pittsburgh, for instance, it was 8.1 miles.

    It was 5.9 miles in the Allentown—Bethlehem—Easton region, and 5.2 miles in Scranton—Wilkes-Barre—Hazleton.

    Philadelphia—Camden—Wilmington workers had a typical commute of 7.8 miles.

    That means the job findings aren’t comparable between metro regions. But within individual metro areas, they give a sense of how, over time, proximity to jobs has changed.

    Why proximity matters

    “In general, when people live closer to jobs, they’re more likely to be employed and the time they spend looking for work tends to be shorter,” says Natalie Holmes, a senior research assistant at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. “That’s especially true for low-income workers who tend to have smaller job search areas because of financial constraints.”

    Living farther from jobs can also hurt higher-income residents, because it still means more time in the car. And for the region, that means more cars on the road, putting a strain on infrastructure and increasing an area’s carbon footprint, Holmes says.

    Holmes gives the caveat that living near jobs doesn’t guarantee employment or take into account residents’ qualifications or a job’s wages.

    “Nevertheless we think living near jobs is an important component of how people do individually and then by extension how communities do,” she says.

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