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Fed research explores employment opportunities for workers without college degrees

May 16, 2019

More than one-in-five jobs across America’s metropolitan areas are defined as opportunity occupations, those that pay above the national annual median wage and are accessible to workers without a bachelor’s degree, according to new research from authors at the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Cleveland.  In Opportunity Occupations Revisited: Exploring Employment for Sub-baccalaureate Workers Across Metro Areas and Over Time, authors Kyle Fee and Lisa Nelson from the Cleveland Fed and Keith Wardrip from the Philadelphia Fed reexamine findings from a 2015 study. This update offers an in-depth analysis of the largest metropolitan areas across the country, finding that a region’s occupational mix and cost of living play a significant role in determining their share of opportunity employment.

Among the 121 metropolitan areas analyzed, the regions with the highest share of employment in opportunity occupations were Toledo (34.0 percent of jobs), Anchorage (31.5 percent of jobs), and Des Moines (30.8 percent of jobs). Opportunity employment was half as common in some of the country’s most expensive metropolitan areas, such as Washington, D.C., (14.6 percent of jobs), New York City (15.3 percent of jobs), and Los Angeles (15.3 percent).

In the areas studied, the job title with the most opportunity employees is registered nurse (1.4 million people). From 2016 to 2026, nurses are also projected to be the second fastest growing profession among all opportunity occupations, following only plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters.

For additional analysis, read the report, or visit Eduardo Porter’s write-up in The New York Times.