The Increasingly Endangered Middle-Skill Job

Career College Central summary:

  • For a few decades now, employment in “middle-skilled” positions – which have historically offered workers without a college degree a berth in the middle class – has been falling sharply. About 25% of the employed workforce in 1985 held middle-skilled jobs; now just above 15% hold those positions, according to a new paper from the Federal Reserve.
  • Using data from the Department of Labor, Fed economist Chris Smith examined what happened as people moved from one kind of occupation to another, and especially what became of workers in what he calls “middle-type” jobs after they were laid off, fired, or switched careers.
  • Employers and community colleges often complain that young adults aren’t preparing themselves for careers on modern, highly-mechanized factory floors. While those jobs may be going unfilled, many middle-skilled office workers, such as receptionists and bank tellers, have simply seen their jobs automated or outsourced away, as economists like David Autor and David Dorn have shown.
  • The trend has especially hit women from 25 to 54 years old without a college education. That group, which is highly represented in those office and administrative support jobs, has seen the sharpest decline in middle-type occupation. In 2012, about 30% of the employed women in that group were in middle-type jobs, down from around 45% in 1985, according to Smith.

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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

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