Opportunity Occupations in the Eyes of the Federal Reserve Bank

The Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Atlanta recently published “Identifying Opportunity Occupations in the Nation’s Largest Metropolitan Economies” (PDF) The report analyzes the availability of good-paying jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree across the country’s 100 largest metros.

The availability of these occupations range from 36.6 percent in some metros to half that in others. On average, opportunity occupations represented 27.4 percent of jobs in 2014. Specifically, “opportunity occupations” are defined as those that don’t require a bachelor’s degree and pay at least the national median wage.

The report also discovered that many employers are asking for educational attainment beyond traditional minimum requirements for several of these jobs. These additional preferences lowered job availability to non-college graduates by as much as 10 percent in some places, typically those metros with higher cost of living and a more educated workforce. In other occupations, educational requirements are becoming laxer.

Several data sets were used in the report, each with notable variance, however three occupations were found in each set’s top five most prevalent: registered nurses; bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks; and truck drivers.

The report admits that variance across these data sets makes it difficult to identify which metros are the most opportunity rich. One data set identified Kansas City, Mo.-Kan., as having the highest percentage of opportunity occupations; another set puts Louisville-Jefferson County, Ky., at the top.

The report also calls for further study as to why certain opportunity occupations are requiring higher educational attainment. The authors offer several possible explanations:

  1. A larger labor supply that allows employers to be pickier;
    A growing complexity in work that government classifications are failing to make distinctions for; and
  2. The bachelor’s degree is being used as a proxy for intangible skills employers seek.

Learn more here.

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