Wisconsin lost 13,000 “good jobs” for noncollege graduates during the last 24 years and was one of 16 states that experienced a net decrease in “good jobs,” according to a study published by Georgetown University.
The study defined “good jobs” as jobs that pay at least $35,000 to those between 25 and 44 years old and $45,000 to those 45 years old and older. Neil Ridley, state initiative director at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce and an author of the study, said in the definition they wanted to take into account differences in earnings across the life cycle.
In Wisconsin, the median income of a worker without a bachelor’s degree with a good job was $54,000, according to the study.
Over the past year there has been interest in economic opportunity for workers without a bachelor’s degree, Sarah Steinberg, vice president of global philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase, said in an email to The Badger Herald.
Ridley said the popular conception is that the manufacturing industry has disappeared and good jobs for workers without a bachelor’s degree have disappeared as well.
“A lot of the stories seem to suggest that if you don’t have a four-year degree in this economy, you’re out of luck and there are no good jobs for you,” Steinberg said. “I saw those stories and thought ‘Hmmm … I don’t think that’s quite the whole story.’”
Despite the loss of 56,000 good blue-collar jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, the state saw an addition of 44,000 good skilled-service jobs. These skilled-service jobs include areas such as health services and financial services that don’t require a bachelor’s degree but might require some sort of additional schooling, such as an associate’s degree or apprenticeship.
The loss of good manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin aligns with the trend seen in other Midwest states, Ridley said.
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Even though good blue-collar jobs across the country have been declining, manufacturing remains the number one industry in Wisconsin for noncollege graduates looking for a good job, according to the study.
Sixty-four percent of Wisconsin workers without a college degree are employed in a blue-collar industry, with 32 percent having a good job in manufacturing.
“Wisconsin still has a lot of good jobs in manufacturing and other blue-collar industries, such as construction,” Ridley said. “Almost one-third of the good jobs for those without a BA are in manufacturing — that’s way above the national average.”
The study also found that education matters more now than it did in 1991. There has been a big shift nationally in good jobs away from high school graduates and toward those with post-secondary education, Ridley said.
The share of the labor force with at least a college degree has grown substantially in Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin economics professor Noah Williams said.
The study also reported the share of the population in Wisconsin with at least a bachelor’s degree increased from 17.7 to 28.4 percent during this time period, Williams said.
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The study found that those with an associate’s degree gained more than 3 million good jobs in the U.S. during the 24-year span.
“Wisconsin exemplified the trend in which good jobs have increasingly gone to workers with associate’s degrees instead of high school grads,” Ridley said.
But workers without a bachelor’s degree still make up the majority of Wisconsin’s workforce, Williams said.
Of all Wisconsin workers, 66 percent do not have a bachelor’s degree, the study found.
“In Wisconsin, we see that there is a pretty robust labor market in terms of good jobs for workers without a BA,” Steinberg said.