Only high school required dominates new job projections

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just released their job projections for 2016-2026. The Atlantic did a good overview article of the data entitled Why Nerds and Nurses are Taking Over the U.S. Economy. The BLS also did a summary analysis of the data. Both are worth checking out.

What I want to focus on in this post is the minimum education requirement for the 11.5 million new jobs projected to be created by the U.S. economy over the next decade. The projections tell a very different story than the widely accepted view that a preponderance of new jobs require a post-secondary certificate.

As you can see from the table below the preponderance of projected new jobs require a high school degree or less. If the projections turn out to be accurate, in 2026 60.5 percent of jobs will be in occupations that require a high school diploma or less. Down only slightly from 61.6 percent in 2016.

When you divide the 11.5 million projected new jobs into those requiring at least a four-year degree; those requiring something less than a four-year degree and more than a high school degree; and those requiring a high school degree or less you get the same pattern we have been observing for decades: job growth is coming primarily in the high- and low-education attainment occupations:

  • Four year degree or more up 4.2 million jobs, 36.5 percent of the job growth
  • Less than a four-year degree and more than a high school diploma up 1.9 million jobs, 16.5 percent of the job growth
  • High school or less up 5.4 million jobs, 47 percent of the job growth.

The projections don’t align with the Lumina Foundation goal of 60 percent of workers having a post-secondary credential. A goal that has been widely accepted.

Nor do the projections align with the story, that way too many public officials and business leaders have been telling over and over again, that others’ kids should be going into mid-skill jobs rather than getting a four-year degree. There are jobs that do not require a four-year degree but do require something more than a high school diploma. But they are a small proportion of the new jobs. Less than one half of the projected new jobs that require a four-year degree or more.

Unfortunately what this data are aligned with is the Michigan Association of United Ways’ ALICE findings that structurally the economy is producing too many jobs that do not pay enough for households to be able to pay for basic necessities. In an analysis we did of 2016 median wages by occupation and minimum education requirement of payroll jobs (the projections include self-employment jobs as well) we found that only about 20 percent of jobs that require a high school degree or less are in occupations with a median wage above the national median for all jobs ($37,040). There is no reason to believe in 2026 that that percentage will change much. So that what these projections are foretelling is an economy a decade from now where far too many jobs are low paying.



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