Using the most recent data available, the Berkshire Regional labor market profile provides a detailed picture of the region’s current and future labor supply. For context, it also provides detailed information on labor demand in the region over the past decade. This profile is designed to help guide workforce development professionals, policy makers, and civic, education, and business leaders as they make decisions about education and training opportunities.
Full profile (60 pages)
by Robert Clifford
Using the most recent data available, the Berkshire Regional labor market profile provides a detailed picture of the region’s current and future labor supply.1 For context, it also provides detailed information on labor demand in the region over the past decade. This profile is designed to help guide workforce development professionals, policy makers, and civic, education, and business leaders as they make decisions about education and training opportunities.
The charts and analysis are divided into three sections:
As the smallest and most rural regional labor market in the state, Berkshire faces challenges that differ somewhat from those facing Massachusetts as a whole. It accounts for only 1.9 percent of the state’s employment (59,700 jobs), and Berkshire’s labor market performance in the past decade has differed from most other labor markets. Between 2001 and 2008, Berkshire was one of only three regions in the state to actually gain jobs, but as the Great Recession hit, the region experienced more severe job losses than did the state. And in the earliest stages of the labor market recovery, Berkshire was the only region to continue to lose jobs. In fact, while Massachusetts and most of its regional labor markets have reported employment gains across a broad range of industries, Berkshire has continued to see employment declines in a majority of its industries.
Already having the smallest residential population (accounting for only 1.8 percent of the state total in 2008-2010), Berkshire was one of only two labor markets to decline in population in the past decade. A contracting residential population, combined with a stagnant working-age population and minimal growth in the civilian labor force, raises demographic challenges for Berkshire, particularly given the region’s educational attainment and age profile.
While Massachusetts is one of the most highly educated states in the nation, both the Berkshire region’s residents and its workforce (which includes people who commute from other regions and states) have education levels similar to their counterparts in the United States. Over the past decade, the region saw progressively higher levels of educational attainment among its residents and workforce, but a High School Degree was still the most common level of educational attainment in 2008-2010, accounting for 30.7 percent of the civilian labor force. The share of the region’s civilian labor force with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher trailed that of Massachusetts (30.2 percent versus 41.2 percent). The share of the civilian labor force with some post-secondary education, however, was closer to that of Massachusetts (61.9 percent versus 67.8 percent) because of the region’s strong concentration of individuals with Certificates or Associate’s Degrees. But while the region had a higher share of its labor force with only a High School Degree than did Massachusetts, a smaller share had less than a High School education (7.3 percent, compared with 8.7 percent for the statewide labor force).
Looking forward, the region faces the demographic challenges of an aging population and potential shortfalls in workers with the educational levels desired by employers. Berkshire is the second-oldest region in the state, trailing only the Cape & Islands. In 2008-2010, 49.4 percent of the region’s civilian labor force was 45 years of age or older, while only 31.6 percent was 34 or younger. This suggests that the region’s businesses may face a potential overall shortage of younger workers to replace baby boomers as they retire in the coming decades. And while the educational attainment of the region’s residents increased during the past decade, declines in the population with Associate’s Degrees and slow growth in those with Some College may result in a shortage of younger workers with middle skills to replace baby boomers as they retire. This may be particularly troublesome given that 83.3 percent of the region’s employees are also residents of the region, meaning that Berkshire is heavily dependent on its residents for its workforce. However, people who are 34 years of age or younger represent nearly 50 percent of the region’s unemployed while accounting for only 31.5 percent of the region’s civilian labor force. Thus, younger workers, who are disproportionately unemployed, may provide a future supply of labor that can be educated and trained to address potential labor shortages.
To foster strong economic growth in the future, Berkshire should strive to align the education of its labor force to meet the demands of the region’s employers. The higher education institutions in the region can play a key role in influencing the future supply of workers with post-secondary degrees. This supply will be critical to help meet the demographic challenges posed by the aging workforce and the demand for educated workers. However, the post-secondary education sector in Berkshire is relatively small: In 2010, the Berkshire region had only five post-secondary educational institutions. National and state enrollment patterns indicate that more individuals have been seeking post-secondary education over the past decade. Although Berkshire has also seen growth in full-time and part-time enrollments at lessthan- two-year, two-year, and four-year institutions (with the exception of declining parttime enrollments at four-year institutions), the region trailed the state and national rates in the past decade. Moreover, the increase in the number of students enrolled has not translated into increased degree completions. In fact, Berkshire was the only regional labor market to see declines in the number of Certificates, Associate’s Degrees, and Bachelor’s Degrees completed in the past decade. The majority of Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees in Berkshire have been in Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences. Certificate completions, on the other hand, have been more volatile in both number and composition, but Health Sciences has consistently accounted for the largest share.
The Berkshire region labor market borders the Pioneer Valley region labor market, as well as the states of Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. It is composed of the 32 Massachusetts cities and towns that make up Berkshire County. Its larger cities and towns include Pittsfield and North Adams. Because of data limitations, in certain aspects of our analysis (such as industry/occupational distributions), Berkshire is combined with the Cape & Islands, Central Mass, Northeast, Pioneer Valley, and Southeast regions and is referred to as the region Outside Greater Boston. See the Geographic Definition Appendix for further details.
Massachusetts reached peak employment in 2001 and remained 5.0 percent below its peak (a loss of 169,800 jobs) at the end of 2011. Over the same period, total employment in the United States ended at only 0.4 percent below its 2001 peak (a loss of 513,700 jobs). One reason for the difference was that the short national recession at the beginning of the decade created a prolonged contraction and slow recovery in Massachusetts. By the start of the Great Recession, Massachusetts had still not recovered all of the jobs it had lost during the previous downturn. In contrast, the nation experienced a short labor market contraction in 2001, followed by a strong recovery that expanded employment up until the Great Recession. The Great Recession impacted the nation severely, while Massachusetts experienced a less pronounced downturn, with a slightly stronger recovery through 2010 followed by slower employment growth in 2011.
These differences between Massachusetts and the United States over the economic cycles are important to keep in mind when evaluating the performances of the eight regional labor markets. When possible, these labor market profiles will look at labor market information for the beginning of the millennium, the period preceding the Great Recession, and the decline in and recovery from the Great Recession.