Daily Video

December 8, 2009

Cities Hit Hard by Recession

In this part of a series examining communities across the country, NewsHour correspondent Ray Suarez reports how the city of Philadelphia is coping through the recession and the decline of once-powerful manufacturing industry.

In the past four decades, Philadelphia has gone from being a city of skilled blue-collar workers to one where just 1 in 20 workers makes things for a living.

As a result, many of the city’s formerly robust industrial plants and working-class neighborhoods stand abandoned. Twenty-two percent of adults can’t read and write, and a quarter of the city’s residents live in poverty.

While the current efforts have dampened efforts to get Philadelphia back on the right track, city officials and community activists are investing in new industries — green energy and urban art renewal among them — to promote young people’s interest and success in the city.


“If you can get some of these young people, African-Americans, involved in the process [of community renewal], they will form companies in that space, hopefully locate those companies here in Philadelphia, and hire people in neighborhoods.” – Jeremiah White, iPraxis

“We used to have 52 percent of our work force at the beginning of the 20th century in manufacturing. Today, it’s 4 percent. Those were the jobs we were always losing at a faster rate than the national economy. A great strength in health care and education has buoyed us and carried us through this economy.” Paul Levy, president and CEO, Center City District

“You can’t have a recovery without cities and metro areas recovering as well. They talked about some of the industries that were too big to fail. I would say that cities are too important to fail.” Michael Nutter, Philadelphia mayor

Warm Up Questions

1. What do you know about Philadelphia?

2. What does it mean to be an industrial city?

3. What has happened to America’s manufacturing sector?

4. What is the Rust Belt? What cities would be included in it?

Discussion Questions

1. What did you learn from this video? Did any of the information surprise you?

2. What are the similarities between the metropolitan area near you and the problems that Philadelphia is currently facing?

3. Many urban cities in the north experienced a steep decline in industry and manufacturing jobs after the World War II. Research why this change came about. How did it affect communities?

Additional Resources

Read the transcript of this report

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