Using the most recent data available, the Pioneer Valley 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 Pioneer Valley 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:
1. Labor Supply: Demographic Trends of Residents Who Live in Pioneer Valley
2. Labor Demand: Employment Trends of Jobs and Workers in Pioneer Valley
3. The Pipeline: Educational Supply of Post-Secondary Degrees Granted by Institutions Located in Pioneer Valley
The past decade has been challenging for the Pioneer Valley labor market. After two recessions and a decade of declining employment, the region is now gaining jobs and recovering at a modest pace. Moreover, the recent recovery from the Great Recession has been somewhat stronger in the region than in the state as a whole. Pioneer Valley has experienced relatively broad-based improvement, with stronger growth than the state in a majority of industries, helping to move the region ahead in the first year of the recovery.
While the unemployment rate in the region was nearly the same as the rate statewide through the first half of the past decade, the impact of the Great Recession was particularly severe in Pioneer Valley. The region’s unemployment rate reached 9.2 percent in 2010, slightly below the national rate (9.6 percent) but far exceeding the statewide rate (8.5 percent), making it the third highest rate among all regional labor markets. This was significantly higher than the region’s unemployment rate following the 2001-02 recession (5.8 percent in 2003) and much higher than the region’s unemployment rate at the beginning of the decade (3.0 percent).
While high unemployment has impacted all demographic groups, it has been disproportionally concentrated among the young and those with lower levels of education. For example, in 2008-2010 over 50 percent of the region’s unemployed were 34 years of age or younger, though such individuals accounted for only 32 percent of the region’s civilian labor force. Similarly, nearly 60 percent of those unemployed in Pioneer Valley had a High School Degree or less, while only 38 percent of the region’s civilian labor force had such an education.
Massachusetts is one of the most highly educated states in the nation, but Pioneer Valley’s residents and workforce (which include people who commute from other regions and other states) have education levels similar to their counterparts in the United States. Over the past decade, the region has seen progressively higher levels of educational attainment among its residents and workforce, but a High School Degree continues to be the most common level of educational attainment in the region. In 2008- 2010, the share of the region’s civilian labor force with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher trailed that of Massachusetts (30.5 percent versus 41.2 percent). However, the share of the region’s civilian labor force with some post-secondary education (61.8 percent) was closer to the share in Massachusetts (67.8 percent) because of the region’s strong concentration of individuals with a Some College education (i.e. Certificates) or an Associate’s Degree.
Looking forward, the region faces the demographic challenges of an aging population and potential shortfalls in workers with the educational levels required by employers. In 2008- 2010, 47.1 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 region’s residents have obtained progressively higher levels of education in the past decade, slower growth in those with Some College and Associate’s Degrees may result in a potential future shortage in the number of younger residents and workers in the region with the needed skills to replace baby boomers as they retire. This may be particularly troublesome given that 91.5 percent of the region’s employees are also residents; Pioneer Valley may not be able to attract workers from other regions to work in jobs with relatively low education requirements and pay, given that these positions are typically filled by less mobile populations. However, younger workers and those with lower levels of education, who are disproportionately unemployed, may provide a future supply of labor that can be educated and trained to address labor shortages.
To foster strong economic growth in the future, Pioneer Valley 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 increasing demand for educated workers. National and state enrollment patterns indicate that more individuals sought post-secondary education over the past decade. Although Pioneer Valley saw similar growth in full-time and part-time enrollment at less-than-two-year, two-year, and four-year institutions, the region trailed state and national growth rates during the same time period. Similarly, the region saw more students completing post-secondary degrees and programs (Certificates, Associate’s Degrees and Bachelor’s Degrees) but trailed Massachusetts and the United States in the growth of such degree completions over the past decade. The strongest growth varied by postsecondary program and degree, with Health Sciences growing fastest among Certificates and Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences among Associate’s Degrees. Bachelor’s Degrees growth was spread across a wide range of fields of study
The Pioneer Valley labor market borders two regional labor markets: Berkshire and Central Mass. It is composed of 73 Massachusetts cities and towns covering all of Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties. In addition to Springfield, the third most populous city in Massachusetts, the region contains a number of other larger cities and towns, including: Chicopee, Westfield, Holyoke, Amherst, and Northampton. Because of data limitations, in certain aspects of this analysis, such as industry/occupational distributions, Pioneer Valley is combined with the Berkshire, Cape & Islands, Central Mass, Northeast, and Southeast regional labor markets 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.