Education, Demand and Unemployment in Metropolitan America

Demand and Unemployment in Metropolitan America
explores the relationship between high unemployment
in U.S. cities and “education gaps” – instances in which employer demand for
educated workers exceeds the supply of such workers. 

For this report, researchers gathered
data on education levels and unemployment data from the U.S. Census Bureau and
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for all 366 U.S. metropolitan areas with a
population of at least 500,000. The report focused mainly on findings from the
largest 100 metropolitan areas, which included several cities in Ohio (Akron,
Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, and Youngstown).

The study found that from 2005 to the
peak of the recession in 2009, employers – on average – sought workers with higher
levels of education. It was a buyer’s market and they wanted better educated
workers. Furthermore, cities with larger education gaps had higher unemployment
rates. This result reflects the declining demand for less-educated workers that
are often employed in industries like construction and manufacturing.  At the same time, more elastic industries
like education and health care actually saw job gains.  This results in relatively low levels of
unemployment in cities like Washington D.C. and Columbus, both of which have
smaller education gaps. In fact, Columbus ranks first in Ohio in predicted
growth largely due to its better educated citizens and diversified
industry.  Meanwhile cities like
Youngstown and Toledo that suffer from large education gaps and declining
manufacturing base have seen unemployment figures sky-rocket.

Boosting educational attainment across
the board is imperative, especially in cities like Toledo, Youngstown, and
Dayton. From 2005 to 2009, Toledo was among the top ten metro areas in seeing
an increase in the education gap. Youngstown was one of the top ten metro areas
with the highest average education gap during that same time frame. Students in
these communities need to not only attain secondary diplomas but postsecondary
degrees in order to make significant progress in closing gaps between the
supply of educated workers and industry demand. For instance, in the cities of
Akron, Dayton and Toledo, workers with a bachelor’s degree have at least  a 10.5 percent lower chance of being
unemployed than workers with just a high school diploma. This figure captures
the drastic need for these cities and others like them to improve their K-12

Demand, and Unemployment in Metropolitan America

Jonathan Rothwell and Alan Berube
Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings
September 2011

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