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Midwest Hit Hardest in Recession, but Job Opportunities Growing

Midwest U.S.  “No one has had it worse than the Midwest,” in terms of the recession, states a new report by Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce.

September 13, 2011 – A new report by Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) says the Midwest ranked as the hardest hit region during the recession, mostly because of its industrial composition.

“No one has had it worse than the Midwest,” states the report, authored by CEW director Anthony P. Carnevale and Nicole Smith, the center’s senior economist.

Since the recession began in 2007, the Midwest lost 610,000 jobs in manufacturing –representing 31 percent of all manufacturing jobs lost in the country.

Growing Job Openings

Despite these job losses, the report says two million job openings will be available in manufacturing nationally through 2018, mostly due to baby boomer retirement.

And the report states 20 percent of America’s job openings – or 10.2 million jobs – will become available in the Midwest through 2018.

Despite the Midwest’s heavy reliance on manufacturing, the study finds that Midwestern states are no longer solely dependent on that industry alone. New jobs in the region will be in high-skill service industries such as education and health care.

“As long as we remain focused on the economic wreckage in our rearview mirror, that is the low-skill, middle-wage jobs that have been lost, the Midwest will be hurtling unprepared into our economic future,” Carnevale says. “The focus must be redirected towards connecting education, training, and careers to create, attain and maintain middle class jobs.”

Postsecondary Needs

By volume, Ohio and Michigan will have the largest proportion of job openings, but Minnesota and North Dakota will lead in terms jobs requiring postsecondary education.

“To fill job openings, the fastest-growing occupations and industries seek individuals with postsecondary credentials,” Smith says. “This is also good news for women, who are graduating from college at higher rates than men, although they remain largely detached from the best-paying area.”

Manufacturing Up

While the economy continues to transition from a production-based economy to a services-based economy, the report concludes that Midwest manufacturing jobs will decline by 4 percent and agricultural employment by 1 percent through 2018.

But fewer workers are needed to produce more and more goods, the authors say, manufacturing is more productive than ever in terms of output.

Manufacturing productivity per worker was $300,000 in 2010, more than three times that of 1970.

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