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Fed Research Identifies Best Jobs, Metro Areas for Workers Without a College Degree

For immediate release
Contact: Daneil Mazone, E-mail Senior Media Relations Representative, 215-574-7163

Philadelphia, PA — Jobs that offer workers without a four-year college degree an opportunity to earn at least the median wage represent as many as one in three local jobs and as few as one in six in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. These opportunity occupations are the focus of a study released jointly today by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Atlanta. The study, Identifying Opportunity Occupations in the Nation’s Largest Metropolitan Economies, found considerable variation in the availability of these jobs across America’s metropolitan landscape.

For workers without a bachelor’s degree, employers’ educational preferences further limit opportunity. Opportunity occupations represented 27.4 percent of available employment in 2014 when education requirements reflected a worker’s typical entry-level education or the views of workers currently in the jobs. This estimate falls to 20.3 percent when compared with data on the educational attainment requested by employers in online job postings.

In some metro areas, the share of opportunity occupations is much lower when based on employers’ education preferences than when it is based on workers’ beliefs about the level of education required to perform a job. In large metro areas with higher living costs, a better-educated workforce, and higher incomes and home values, the analysis of online job ads suggests that employers tend to prefer a higher level of education. For example, the opportunity occupation share falls by more than 13 percentage points in the Bridgeport, CT and San Jose, CA metropolitan statistical areas when employers’ preferences for education are considered.

The study used three data sets to determine the educational attainment associated with a given occupation: the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections program; the Employment & Training Administration’s Occupational Information Network program; and an analysis of data from Burning Glass Technologies, a data vendor that aggregates and extracts information from online job ads.

Regardless of the education data set used, three occupations rank among the top five most prevalent: registered nurses; bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks; and heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers.

Employers also may be relaxing educational preferences for many of the opportunity occupations identified in this report. Between 2011 and 2014, 16 of the 23 opportunity occupations analyzed saw statistically significant increases in the share of online jobs requesting less than a bachelor’s degree, while only three saw statistically significant decreases.

The community development function within the Federal Reserve promotes fair and informed access to financial markets for communities and individuals, recognizing the particular needs of underserved populations. It does so by convening stakeholders to collaborate on community and economic development initiatives, conducting and sharing applied research, and identifying emerging issues.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia helps formulate and implement monetary policy, supervises banks and bank and savings and loan holding companies, and provides financial services to depository institutions and the federal government. It is one of the 12 regional Reserve Banks that, together with the Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., make up the Federal Reserve System. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank serves eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware.

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Media Contacts

Daneil Mazone E-mail
Manager, Media Relations
(215) 574-7163
(267) 535-1808 (cell)

Joey Lee E-mail
Media Relations Representative
(215) 574-3840
(215) 983-6820 (cell)