Pew report finds bright spots among clouds on Philly horizon

    A new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts offers a major reason to be optimistic about Philadelphia.

    The nonprofit found that 2,815 building permits for new residences were issued in the city last year, more than at any other time since 2004. Larry Eichel, a director of Pew’s Philadelphia program, called the boost in permits an “unambiguous expression of confidence in the city’s future.”

    “Investors, at least, are betting that the city’s … population growth is going to continue,” he said. “That confidence in the future, I think, is a really positive thing.”

    The city’s population increased in 2013 for the seventh straight year, according to Pew.

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    Overall, though, the report had decidedly mixed news for Philadelphia. Eichel said the population boom is being threatened by the city’s lagging job growth. While there were more jobs in Philadelphia last year than in 2008, the first time that happened, this represents a slow recovery from the recession compared with many other cities.

    The city’s new residents, Eichel said, “have to find work, and if they can’t find work in the city, this population growth long-term is going to be difficult to sustain.”

    The city’s poverty rate of 26.9 percent continues to be the highest among the country’s 10 biggest cities. Also, enrollment in Philadelphia’s traditional public schools dropped by nearly 6 percent in the 2013-14 year.

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