Civic News

Pew created a data dashboard to assess Philly’s economy. Here’s what it tells us about local business health

One data point you can find: Philadelphia businesses in the information sector have 6.5% more jobs now than two years earlier.

A look at Pew's dashboard.


Pew Charitable Trusts has a new dashboard to give a real-time snapshot of Philadelphia’s economy.

With this interactive data set, Pew’s goal is to inform the public, policymakers and stakeholders who shape the city’s strategies for recovery and growth.

Check it out

More than 20,00 businesses are assessed across the following nine indicators:

  • Delinquency on bills
  • Financial stability
  • Balance on credit accounts
  • Work locations by sector
  • Bankruptcy filings
  • Jobs by sector
  • Jobs by establishment size
  • Wages by sector
  • Consumer and market indicators

Sales revenue will also be included in a future build of the dashboard.

Data for the dashboard comes from federal statistical agencies including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It also includes proprietary data from Experian, a credit-tracking firm. Local stakeholders such as the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. contributed data to the dashboard, too.

According to the dashboard, Philadelphia businesses in the information sector — ranging from cell phone retailers to software developers to publications — have seen an increase in activity during the pandemic.

“In August 2021, the sector had 6.5% more jobs than it had two years earlier, making it one of the few sectors with jobs numbering above its pre-pandemic level,” Pew Philadelphia Research and Policy Initiative’s senior officer, Thomas Ginsberg, told “In addition, the sector posted a 5% increase in its places of work during the first year of the pandemic, led by recording studios, telecommunications equipment sellers, and data processing centers. There was a decline among software development and print publishing establishments, as of Q1 2021.”


Some parts of the dashboard data will be updated quarterly, including jobs by establishment size, wages by sector and work locations, a Pew spokesperson said. Others such as bankruptcies, jobs by sector and consumer spending will be updated on a monthly basis.

We recommend clicking around the find stats relevant to your work, but here’s what we noted as insightful:

  • Financial stability for information-related businesses (1,071) grew 35.6% since Q1 2020.
  • Financial stability of professional, scientific and technical services businesses (4,441) grew by 13.1% since Q1 2020. Work locations in that sector grew by 5.5% during the same time.
  • Financial stability of woman-owned businesses grew 21.2% since Q1 2020 after a dip in Q2 and Q3 2020.
  • Balance on credit accounts grew by 35% for small businesses with nine or fewer employees (29,395) since Q1 2020, while balance on credit accounts for large businesses with 500 or more employees (147) grew by 153.3% during the same period.
  • November 2020 saw a dramatic influx in new Chapter 11, 12 and 13 bankruptcy filings — 69, compared to the next highest rate of 18 in July 2019.

An influx of woman-owned businesses in Philly reflects national trends of growth, though only 28% of local businesses through Q2 2021 are owned by women.

An increase in information-related jobs such as those in the information technology space is also consistent with national trends including a 460% increase in remote work through June 2021.

The increase in financial stability for professional, scientific and technical services businesses and their work locations aligns with recent local growth in the life sciences sector.

The dashboard’s tech stack consists of a combination of several digital elements. Its front end was built using the Svelte JavaScript framework and its charts make use of D3.js. The data is housed in a Microsoft Azure CosmosDB database and communication between the front end of the dashboard and its database happens through NodeJS server-less functions that are hosted as a Microsoft Azure Function App.

Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. -30-
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