Where I mix career information and career decision making in a test tube and see what happens

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Where Occupational Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Last week, I blogged about metropolitan areas where the health-care industry dominates. I looked at the trends in the average earnings of health-care professionals in those metros and, for comparison, the trends for health-care professionals nationwide. I found that the Great Recession had no effect on nationwide earnings—they continued to increase at a steady pace—but in the metros where health-care professionals are concentrated, these workers’ earnings took a noticeable dip during the recession years.

I thought it would be interesting to look at some other occupational categories and see how their experiences compared. So I turned to the same database, the Occupational Employment Survey, and identified the metros where occupations in education exceeded 10 percent of the wage-and-salary workforce; where computer and mathematical occupations exceeded 5 percent; and where engineering occupations exceeded 4 percent.

Here are the metros where these occupations dominate:

Metro Area
Education
Occupations
Ithaca, NY
15.5%
Gainesville, FL
13.3%
Hinesville-Fort Stewart, GA
13.2%
Champaign-Urbana, IL
12.9%
Corvallis, OR
12.8%
Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA
12.3%
Merced, CA
11.7%
Lafayette, IN
11.5%
College Station-Bryan, TX
10.8%
Auburn-Opelika, AL
10.7%
Ann Arbor, MI
10.6%
Athens-Clarke County, GA
10.5%
Yuba City, CA
10.4%
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
10.4%


Metro Area
Computer &
Mathematical
Occupations
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
11.6%
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
7.4%
Boulder, CO
6.7%
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
6.6%
Huntsville, AL
6.5%
Durham-Chapel Hill, NC
6.2%
Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX
5.7%
Trenton-Ewing, NJ
5.5%
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA
5.5%
Madison, WI
5.5%
Raleigh-Cary, NC
5.2%
Colorado Springs, CO
5.1%


Metro Area
Engineering
Occupations
Huntsville, AL
8.3%
Columbus, IN
8.1%
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
5.7%
Warner Robins, GA
5.2%
Norwich-New London, CT-RI
5.0%
Bremerton-Silverdale, WA
5.0%
Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, WA
4.8%
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL
4.5%
Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI
4.4%
Holland-Grand Haven, MI
4.3%




Next, I graphed the 2007–2014 earnings of professionals in the metros where they are concentrated and also nationwide. Here’s what I found:




 

 




The most obvious common element is that the workers in all of the occupationally-concentrated metros experienced earnings downturns during the recession years, whereas across the nation the same kinds of workers experienced no such downturns. Therefore, it appears that what I found for health-care workers last week is not unique to them. Perhaps any concentration of a particular type of worker (and therefore of an industry) increases the wage instability of a metro area.

But I found one interesting way in which the experiences of these occupations differed: For health-care and education professionals, average wages were higher nationwide than in the metros where the workers are concentrated. On the other hand, for computer and engineering professionals, areas where the workers are concentrated offer higher wages.

This finding is consistent with what the urban theorist Richard Florida has written about the “creative class”: Highly creative workers, such as engineering and computer professionals, tend to be most productive where they can work collaboratively. That is why, even with the marvels of 21st-century communication, the industries that employ creative workers tend to concentrate geographically. Thus we find Silicon Valley for high tech, Hollywood for movies, and Nashville for music. And where these workers are concentrated and more productive, they earn more. The same does not seem to be true for educators and health-care professionals.

I’m not saying that educators and health-care professionals are not creative, but the nature of their work does not demand constant creativity to the degree that engineering and computer careers do. As a result, concentration of these workers may actually lower wages by increasing competition.

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