For Immediate Release - October 01, 2012

New Research Finds Multifaceted Labor Force in Boston/Metro North Highly Educated Population, Including a Concentration of Workers Under 35, and Nearly 15 % of the Region’s Working Age Residents Lack a High School Degree

BOSTON – Monday, October 1, 2012 – The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston today announced that the residents and the workers of Boston/Metro North have remarkably high levels of education and the region has the state’s largest share of young residents and workers.   This positive demographic is balanced by the fact that 14.9 percent of working-age residents, which includes people of all age groups, do not have a high school credential in a competitive labor market where educational attainment is highly prized by employers, according to a new study released today. The report, entitled Labor Market Trends in the Boston/Metro North Region, is part of a joint project between EOLWD’s Commonwealth Corporation and the Boston Fed’s New England Public Policy Center. 

“The Patrick-Murray Administration is strengthening the alignment of public post-secondary education with the skill needs of employers, especially at the community college level.  Given the high skill levels required in the Boston/Metro North region, it is critical that we continue to focus on building education and career pathways for residents and workers that support them in advancing into middle and high skill jobs,” said Joanne F. Goldstein, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development.

The Boston/Metro North region is composed of 21 cities and towns in Suffolk and Middlesex Counties. The region contains several large cities and towns, including: Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Malden, Medford, Revere, Arlington, Everett, and Woburn.  

A major advantage for Boston/Metro North is the large share of young residents and workers in the region. As one of the older states in the country, most regions in Massachusetts face the demographic challenges of an aging population and potential shortfalls in workers.  In contrast, Boston/Metro North has the largest concentration in the state of residents and workers under the age of 35. In 2008-2010, nearly 46 percent of the region’s civilian labor force was under 35, compared with only 33 percent of the state’s labor force.  The younger people in Boston/Metro North also tend to be well-educated, with a large number having a Bachelor’s Degree or higher.

Young people, however, are disproportionately unemployed. People between the ages of 16 and 24 accounted for the largest share of the unemployed among the different age cohorts.  In 2008-2010, nearly 30 percent of the unemployed were people between 16 and 24 years old, even though they represented only 16.3 percent of the civilian labor force in Boston/Metro North.

“In Boston we have directed our investments towards residents struggling with the labor market, working to ensure they too benefit from our economic successes.  With focused strategies like the Re-Engagement Center, getting young people back on track to complete high school; Success Boston, designed to dramatically increase the college completion rate of Boston Public School graduates; and supporting adults to advance their careers with access to excellent occupational skills training and employment-focused adult literacy, using downtown development linkage dollars.  I am proud that One in 3” Boston, has strengthened our young, educated workforce, a highlight of this report, but must we continue to work towards quality employment for all our residents,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino.   

The education levels in Boston/Metro North are remarkably high, especially of those people participating in the labor market. Over the past decade, the share of individuals, including those who are engaged in the workforce, with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher has continued to increase.  In 2008-2010, 47.5 percent of the labor force in Boston/Metro North had a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, compared with 41.2 percent of Massachusetts labor force and 29.6 percent of U.S. labor force.

Yolanda Kodrzycki, Vice President and Director of the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, noted that, “While the region is highly educated, it is also home to a significant number of people who lack a high school degree. Without completing high school and getting some further education or training, many residents cannot participate fully in today’s labor market.” In 2008-10, nearly 150,000 of Boston/Metro North’s working-age residents (14.9) lacked a High School Degree.  This is higher than the share in the state (13.9 percent) but it is still lower than in the nation (17.6 percent).

“Nearly 30% of the unemployed in the Boston/MetroNorth region are younger workers, 16-24 years of age.  Given the importance of this cohort in the regional economy and the pending retirement of baby boomers, we must work together to create effective entry ramps to the knowledge and innovation economy for young workers,” said Nancy Snyder, President of Commonwealth Corporation.

While the high levels of education have benefitted the region, the last decade has, nonetheless, been challenging for Boston/Metro North.  During the first year of the recovery from the Great Recession, Boston/Metro North was slower to add jobs than the state as a whole, but the pace of the recovery in the region has picked up in the second year of the recovery.  Concentrations in fields that are yet to recover, such as Financial Activities, have weighed down the region’s recovery. Between the fourth quarter of 2009 and the fourth quarter of 2011, employment in Boston/Metro North grew 3.2 percent, while the state grew 2.9 percent during that same time period. Financial Activities has continued to lose jobs while improvements in Professional & Technical Services and Education have helped moved the region along in the second year of the recovery.“The region’s economy benefits from the highly skilled workforce and cluster of scientific and technology institutions and industries.  Our higher education institutions have a key role to play in meeting the increased demand for workers with post-secondary degrees,” said Joanna Dowling, Chair Metro North Regional Employment Board.

The region’s higher education institutions have a critical role to play in influencing the region’s future supply of workers.  More and more individuals have been seeking post-secondary education over the last decade.  Although enrollments are up, the region has mostly trailed the growth patterns of Massachusetts and the United States in terms of the rate of students completing their degrees. Bachelor’s Degree completions were the exception, with an annual growth rate (2.3 percent) slightly exceeding the Massachusetts growth rate (2.1 percent) but trailing that of the United States (2.9 percent). The slowest growth in completions during the past decade occurred among students earning Associate’s Degrees (2.1 percent in Boston/ Metro North versus 2.3 percent in Massachusetts and 4.2 percent in the U.S.).   Among community college graduates, the highest share of graduates with Associate’s Degrees were in health sciences, reflecting alignment with this critical industry sector in the regional economy.

The FY13 budget Governor Deval Patrick signed in July begins to address the “skills gap” by adopting the Governor’s proposal to create a more unified, coordinated community college system. The reforms will enable students to transfer their credits more easily and local campuses to be more responsive to the needs of local economies as well as of the state’s fastest growing sectors.

The full report and appendices are available online at:
About Commonwealth Corporation: Commonwealth Corporation strengthens the skills of youth and adults by investing in innovative partnerships with industry, education, and workforce organizations.  We seek to meet the immediate and emerging needs of businesses and workers so that they can thrive in our dynamic economy.  Commonwealth Corporation is a Massachusetts quasi-public corporation within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development

About the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston:  The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has a decades-long tradition of supporting the New England public policy community.  In 2005, the Bank established the New England Public Policy Center to reinvigorate and institutionalize that support.  The Center promotes better public policy in New England by conducting and disseminating objective, high-quality research and analysis of strategically identified regional economic and policy issues and, when appropriate, works with regional and Bank partners to advance identified policy options.