A November report from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce examines the changes in the job market from 1991 to 2015, specifically the number of good jobs without a bachelor’s degree nationally and by state. Defining “good jobs” is subjective, of course, but here they are defined as those that pay at least $35,000 annually for workers under the age of forty-five (or $17 per hour for a full-time job) and $45,000 for older employees (or $22 per hour full time). In 2015, these jobs had median earnings of $55,000 annually.
The report uses annual survey data administered by the U.S. Census Bureau called the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement for years 1992 to 2016. Data for workers between the ages of twenty-five and sixty-four are used to estimate employment by state, as well as the level of educational attainment, industry, and occupation.
In looking at the national breakdown of good jobs, 55 percent of those workers hold at least a bachelor’s degree. And of the 61 percent of employed adults who don’t have a bachelor’s degree, 40 percent have a good job. But this differs between states. In Wyoming, for example, 62 percent without the credential have good jobs.
Overall, the share of good jobs for workers without a bachelor’s degree declined from about 60 percent of workers in 1991 to 45 percent in 2015. But variation among states is wide. Thirty-four states (mostly in the South and West) added good jobs for these workers over the nearly twenty-five years covered by the study; sixteen states and the District of Columbia had fewer, and they are mostly located in the Northeast and Midwest—areas hit hard by manufacturing declines.
The loss of jobs in traditionally blue-collar industries, including manufacturing, transportation, utilities, construction, and natural resources, is largely to blame for this decline. Nationally, blue-collar employment has fell 30 percent since 1991, driven primarily by drops in the manufacturing sector. But that trend doesn’t hold in all industries in all states. In thirty-eight states, for example, blue-collar jobs in non-manufacturing industries like construction and transportation are on the rise. And many blue-collar jobs have increasingly been replaced by skilled-service jobs, such as those in the healthcare and financial services fields.
Moreover, prospects differ based on whether workers without a bachelor’s degree have earned an associate’s degree or attended at least some college. Good jobs held by high school graduates who have no higher education have declined by 8 percentage points over the last quarter century. But the share of good jobs held by those with an associate’s degree has increased in every state, and has gone up 9 percentage points nationally. In Minnesota, for instance, associate degree holders increased their share of good jobs by 31 percentage points in nearly twenty-five years.
The bottom line is that the best economic outlook for those without bachelor’s degrees are now found more often in skilled-services industries, such as healthcare and financial services, but even in those areas, workers increasingly need at least some college education.
SOURCE: Anthony Carnevale et al., “Good Jobs that Pay without a BA,” Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (November 2017).