New Research Finds Central Mass to Have the Fastest Growing Population
Immigrants in Central Region Strongly Contribute to the Region’s Growth
WORCESTER – Wednesday, October 24, 2012 – The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston today released a report showing that the population of Central Mass region of the state grew at an annual rate of 0.7 percent between 2000 and 2008-2010, more than double the state’s rate of 0.3. The report, entitled “Labor Market Trends in the Central Mass Region,” is part of a joint project between EOLWD’s Commonwealth Corporation and the Boston Fed’s New England Public Policy Center.
“As the labor force increases in size, the Patrick-Murray Administration is strengthening pathways for new and incumbent workers in Central Massachusetts by aligning public post-secondary education with the skill needs of employers, especially at the community college level. Given the increasing skill levels required in the Central Mass 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 Central region is composed of 61 Massachusetts cities and towns covering all of Worcester County and parts of Middlesex County. In addition to Worcester, the second most populous city in Massachusetts, the region contains a number of other large cities and towns, including: Leominster, Fitchburg, Shrewsbury, and Milford.
The past decade has been challenging for the Central region’s economy. After two recessions and a decade of declining employment, the region is now gaining jobs and recovering at a modest pace, thanks to a growth strategy targeted at education, innovation, and infrastructure investments. The recovery from the global economic collapse, however, has been somewhat slower in the region. The rate of recovery has been in the middle of the pack among the different regions in the state but trailed the statewide recovery.
Although Central Mass lost jobs over the last decade, the region still had the fastest growing population of all regional labor markets in Massachusetts. An increase in the number of immigrants was one of the key reasons for the region’s population growth. In fact, a majority of the growth in the population of Central Mass came from immigrants. The number of immigrants in the region grew at annual rate of 3.7 percent. The growth of immigrants in the region consistently exceeded the rates in both Massachusetts and the United States over the course of the decade.
Over the last decade, the region has become more racially and ethnically diverse. The number of Asians living in the region grew at an annual rate of 6.9 percent; the number of black, non-Hispanic residents grew at an annual rate of 5.8; and the number of Hispanics grew at an annual rate of 3.9 percent.
"This report highlights several areas of importance for us as a region that will impact our ability to grow our economy,” noted Rosalie Lawless, Chair of the Central Massachusetts Workforce Board. “As a local Workforce Investment Board, this report helps provide us a road map of the issues that need to be addressed including successful integration of new Americans and young adults into the workplace and the development of middle skills for our local labor force."
In 2008-2010, 45.2 percent of the region’s civilian labor force was 45 years or older, while only 31.6 percent was under 35 years old. While the region’s labor force have obtained higher levels of education in the past decade, the educational level of the labor force and workforce was similar to their counterparts in the United States than in Massachusetts in 2008-2010. The share of the civilian labor force in the region with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher was 34.5 percent, compared with 41.2 percent of Massachusetts residents with similar education levels. In comparison, 35.8 percent of the region’s labor force has a High School Degree or less, exceeding the 32.1 percent statewide. Further, because Central Mass is not a major destination for workers from other regions, the region may face difficulty in filling any labor shortages by attracting commuters, particularly in positions with lower education requirements that are traditionally filled by less mobile populations.
“Looking forward, the region faces potential shortfalls in workers with certain educational levels demanded by employers, such as Associate’s Degrees.” noted Yolanda Kodrzycki, Vice President and Director of the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. “However, the large numbers of individuals with a High School Degree or less are a potential source to meet demand. Educating and training workers to fill such shortfalls will be important to support the region’s future vitality.”
While young workers ages 16-24 make up 13.1 percent of the civilian labor force they account for 24.8 percent of the unemployed in the region. “Across the state, our young people are struggling to gain a foothold in the labor market. Creating strategies to increase youth employment must be a priority. Early work experience generates important work readiness skills, and a lack of work history leads to a weak connection to the labor market over a worker’s lifetime,” said Nancy Snyder, President of Commonwealth Corporation.
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. In Central Mass, growth in full-time enrollments at two- and four-year institutions surpassed state rates during the same period. In addition, over the past decade more students in the region have completed post-secondary programs and degrees (Certificates, Associate’s Degrees, and Bachelor’s Degrees), exceeding the growth in Massachusetts in Certificates and Associate’s Degrees. Over the past decade, the number of students earning an Associate’s Degree increased at an annual growth rate of 3.8 percent, compared with only 2.3 percent in Massachusetts. There has been an increase in most major fields of study for each degree type. In particular, the number of people earning Certificates and Associate’s Degrees has increased in the fields of Health Sciences, Services, and Business.
"Local colleges and universities in Central Massachusetts are actively engaged in partnering with local K-12 school districts in an effort to increase high school graduation rates and ensure all students are college and career ready. Once enrolled in college, students are strongly encouraged to avail themselves to experiential learning opportunities that bring relevance to their studies and help develop some of the necessary soft skills required in today's job market," said Mark P. Bilotta, CEO for the Colleges of Worcester Consortium.
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.
Even during the recession, the Patrick-Murray Administration pursed a growth strategy focused on investing in education, infrastructure and innovation, and it’s producing results. Massachusetts students rank first in the nation in student achievement and Massachusetts is leading the world in innovation and the life sciences. At 6.5 percent, unemployment in Massachusetts remains well below the national average.
The full report and appendices are available online at http://www.bostonfed.org/neppc
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.