Philadelphia skyline

Shown is the skyline in Philadelphia along the Schuylkill River. — AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Philadelphia ranks 95th out of 121 metropolitan areas across the country in the availability of “opportunity occupations,” according to a recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and Cleveland.

Opportunity occupations — jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree and typically pay above the national median wage of $37,690 — account for 21.6% of total employment in the 121 metro areas analyzed and 20.1% of jobs in the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington area, the report says.

York, Pennsylvania, tops the list of metro areas in the region, with opportunity occupations representing 26.5% of jobs. Trenton, New Jersey, ranks the lowest in the region, with only 19.3% share of opportunity occupations.

“We conducted this research because we know that workers without a college degree are typically at a disadvantage in the labor market when it comes to wages and employment data,” said Keith Wardrip, the community development research manager for the Philadelphia Fed and one of three researchers who wrote the report.

“We also know that where you live directly affects your economic opportunities — the types of jobs, you’ll find when you’re in the job market. It affects how much these jobs pay and it also affects the level of education that employers will be looking for in strong applicants.”

Median wages were adjusted based on factors such as the cost of living in each metro area. Since the cost of living in Philadelphia is 6% higher than it is nationally, researchers adjusted the national median wage up to $39,900.

“If an occupation’s median wage in Philadelphia paid below $39,900, we classified it as lower wage employment,” Wardrip explained.

“If it paid above that threshold, we used online job ads data which captures the educational preferences of employers actually hiring for these jobs, to distinguish between work that requires a bachelor’s degree and work that doesn’t.”

In the Philadelphia area, the top 10 opportunity occupations include registered nurses, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers; maintenance and repair workers; bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks; licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses; supervisors of retail sales workers; automotive service technicians and mechanics; carpenters; police and sheriff patrol officers and supervisors of office and administrative support workers.

“I think it’s important to note that if you look at the 10 largest opportunity occupations in the Philadelphia region, there are a handful that don’t require much training or education beyond high school, but by and large, the largest opportunity occupations do require some level of post-secondary education, training or some on-the-job experience,” Wardrip said.

“If a community wants to expand access to economic opportunities for workers without a college degree, solutions may lie in providing some worker training or access to an associate degree and education at a community college.”

He noted that during the last six years, jobs for the largest opportunity occupations became less likely to require a bachelor’s degree.

According to the report, some of the largest opportunity occupations, including a number in health care and the skilled trades, could experience above average growth through 2026 and are not considered to be at significant risk of automation.

ajones@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5747

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