Today in Pittsfield, a detailed analysis of the Berkshire County labor market was presented by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to highlight the changes, strengths, and challenges facing workers and employers in region. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…
Staff from the Commonwealth Corporation and the New England Public Policy Center of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston presented data this morning at a breakfast hosted by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. Presenters outlined the labor market trends of Berkshire, and four main themes revealed themselves in the information:
According to the numbers, Berkshire County is still in a slow economic recovery from the great recession, the area has an aging workforce and declining young workers, degree completion and enrollment is down in post-secondary education, but despite the shrinking workforce, the post secondary education rate is near the statewide average.
Robert Clifford, a policy analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston said that most striking revelation from the workforce data was the fact that much of the workers in the Berkshries commute in from other areas .
Clifford said that the skills gap could be part of the problem, but other factors are also in play.
The largest employment sector in Berkshire County is Education & Health Services, at a rate of 32.1%. That sector is both higher than the Massachusetts on average percentage at 27.2%, and the United States average at 24.3% In the past decade, manufacturing in the region has halved.
Still, for the jobs that are available, employers are having a hard time finding adequate workers in the Berkshire area.
Mike Supranowicz, President and CEO of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, said that part of the reason is the “reactive” nature of the Berkshire economy.
Supranowicz said that if Massachusetts were to take part in all of the US Census bureau’s workforce data programs, it would have an easier time of pinpointing the exact needs of the area, and where workers should be trained.
Heather Boulger of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board also weighed in on the job training issue.
It was also stated that Berkshire County has had a declining population for the past decade, but immigrant populations have been on the rise. In the dreary outlook for much of the Berkshire economy’s future, Claudine Chavanne, Community Planner with the Adult Learning Center in Pittsfield, said that the rise in immigrant populations provides a small bright spot. She used Pittsfield’s population as an example.
For more information including detailed statistics on the labor market data, see the full report here: