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Originally published Sunday, September 2, 2012 at 4:00 PM

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Editorial: Jobs and the need for college degrees

A Brookings Institution study of 100 metropolitan cities, including Seattle, suggests that new jobs are requiring higher levels of education than job seekers have. Reason enough to invest more in education

Seattle Times Editorial

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Employers in Washington have long warned of a mismatch between the education levels of available workers and the education required by many jobs today.

This is how the dots connect.

In May 2012, Seattle's unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, too high though below the national average of 8.2 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But there's no better statistic than this next one to show that state employers have not been crying wolf.

In 2011, the city had 6.2 job openings for positions that typically require a bachelor's degree for every single unemployed worker with a degree, according to the Conference Board, a nonprofit organization that tracks employment trends. Contrast that with only 1.8 job openings requiring a high-school diploma or less for evey one worker that might qualify.

The Brookings Institution connected those dots in a new study, "Education, Job Openings, and Unemployment in Metropolitan America." Researchers analyzed educational requirements for new jobs in the 100 largest metro areas and found the percentage of jobs requiring less education fell as a share of total employment from 2007 to 2011.

While roughly 40 percent of the U.S. population over 25 and living in large metro areas has only a high-school diploma or less, only 25 percent of jobs advertised online would be available for them.

The Seattle-Bellevue-Tacoma region ranks in the middle of the 100 cities in terms of balancing supply and demand for workers with a bachelor's degree or higher.

Here, 49 percent of job openings required a bachelor's degree or higher in 2012. Of existing jobs, a third required a college degree. About 37 percent of the local population had a four-year college degree in 2010, according to statistics collected by the Census Bureau.

Technology has had a big impact on the demand for jobs requiring post-secondary education. And more people are aspiring to college -- partly in acknowledgment of changing workforce demands -- but the college-going rate is not keeping up with the number of jobs demanding college educations.

Reversing the trends requires individuals and policy makers making education beyond high school a higher priority.

For more information about the Brookings study, go to:

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