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  • Whether a job requires a degree may shift with the economy

    The Wall Street Journal - 10/14/2015

    But employers’ expectations can also ebb and flow with the state of the labor market. Beginning in 2007, firms posting job listings in a variety of industries began requesting bachelor’s degrees or multiple years of experience where previously neither was required.Alicia Sasser Modestino, an economist at Northeastern University, calls this cyclical phenomenon, in which an increase in the unemployment rate leads to higher expectations for new hires, “opportunistic upskilling.”

    Ms. Modestino and her co-authors studied approximately 13 million job listings from the online job aggregator Burning Glass Technologies and found that increases in a state’s unemployment rate caused local employers to raise the requirements for middle-skill jobs, such as administrative assistant or sales representative. They found that for each percentage-point increase in the state unemployment rate between 2007 and 2010, the share of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree rose by 0.44 percentage points. Similarly, the share of jobs requiring at least two years of experience rose by 0.79 percentage points. That correlation held steady even when the researchers were looking at the same job title at the same firm. Other examples of middle-skill jobs that were affected include paralegal, logistician (someone who works at a warehouse or distribution center, for example), aircraft mechanic, customer-service representative and construction manager.

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