It’s an ongoing paradox in the ongoing sluggish economic recovery — unemployment is running high; yet, at the same time, companies are struggling to find qualified employees to staff openings. That’s because many of the available jobs require specialized or advanced skills, often requiring degrees.
The education gap is pervasive, a new report out of the Brookings Institute states. In the 100 largest metropolitan areas, 43% of job openings typically require at least a bachelor’s degree, but just 32% of adults 25 and older have earned one.
You would think that cities with higher levels of education attainment would have fewer unfilled job openings, then. However, the opposite effect occurs — metro areas with more educated populations also have the most unfilled job openings that go begging. “Educational attainment, overall and relative to existing demand, benefits metro areas by making workers more employable and firms more competitive and entrepreneurial—thus leading to more job openings for less educated workers,” the report states.
The Brookings analysis, which looked at employment patterns in the 100 largest metropolitan areas from January of 2006 to February of 2012, finds that metro areas with higher education gaps have experienced lower rates of job creation and job openings over the past few years.
The Brookings report ranks the metropolitan areas with the highest share of job openings going unfilled after a given month:
- Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
- Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC
- Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
- Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
- Springfield, MA
- Scranton–Wilkes-Barre, PA
- Jackson, MS
- Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
Declines in industry demand and housing prices explain most of the recent cyclical increases in metropolitan unemployment rates, but education gaps explain most of the structural level of metropolitan unemployment over the past few years, the report adds. “High educational attainment is essential for the health of metropolitan labor markets before, during, and after recessions. Educational attainment makes workers more employable, creates demand for complementary less educated workers, and facilitates entrepreneurship.”
(Photo: Joe McKendrick.)