Labor Market Trends in Massachusetts Regions:
Cape & Islands

map of the Cape and Islands region
December 2012
A joint project of Commonwealth Corporation and the New England Public Policy Center of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Using the most recent data available, the Cape & Islands regional labor market profile provides a detailed picture of the region’s current and future labor supply. For context, it also provides detailed information on labor demand in the region over the past decade. This profile is designed to help guide workforce development professionals, policy makers, and civic, education, and business leaders as they make decisions about education and training opportunities.

Full profilepdf (60 pages)

Presentation pdf
by Robert Clifford


  • Overview
  • Measuring
    Labor Supply
  • Measuring
    Labor Demand
  • Measuring
    Educational Supply

  • Appendices

Executive Summary | Geography | Employment Trends and Recessions

Executive Summary

Using the most recent data available, the Cape & Islands regional labor market profile provides a detailed picture of the region’s current and future labor supply. For context, it also provides detailed information on labor demand in the region over the past decade. This profile is designed to help guide workforce development professionals, policy makers, and civic, education, and business leaders as they make decisions about education and training opportunities.

The charts and analysis are divided into three sections:

  1. Labor Supply: Demographic Trends of Residents Who Live in the Cape & Islands
  2. Labor Demand: Employment Trends of Jobs and Workers in the Cape & Islands
  3. The Pipeline: Educational Supply of Post- Secondary Degrees Granted by Institutions Located in the Cape & Islands

As a small labor market that is heavily reliant on tourism, the Cape & Islands faces somewhat different challenges from those facing Massachusetts as a whole. The Cape & Islands accounts for only 3.1 percent of the state’s employment (98,000 jobs), and its labor market performance in the past decade differed from most other regional labor markets in the state. At the start of the decade, employment declined statewide with the bursting of the “technology bubble” resulting in a recession. But this had little effect on the Cape & Islands, which actually added jobs in this recession. As a result, employment in the region grew by 3.4 percent between the first quarters of 2001 and 2008 (compared with a loss of 2.1 percent statewide), the fastest of all the labor markets. But as the Great Recession hit, the region experienced more severe job losses than did the state. During the earliest stages of the labor market recovery, the Cape & Islands added jobs at the slowest pace of all the regional labor markets.

Along with having one of the smallest residential populations (accounting for only 3.8 percent of the state’s total population in 2008– 2010), the Cape & Islands was one of only two labor markets to decline in population in the past decade. A small and contracting population combined with a nearly stagnant workingage population and minimal growth in the civilian labor force raises demographic concerns for the Cape & Islands, particularly given the age of the region’s residents and workers.

Both the region’s residents and its workforce (which includes people who commute from other regions and other states) have fairly high levels of education. Massachusetts has one of the most highly educated populations in the nation, and the education level of the Cape & Islands is almost comparable with that of the state. Over the past decade, the level of education for both residents and workers in the region has increased. However, the 39.2 percent of the civilian labor force in the region that had a Bachelor’s Degree or higher in 2008–2010 still slightly trailed the 41.2 percent of Massachusetts residents with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher. At the same time, the share of the region’s civilian labor force with some postsecondary education (70.2 percent) actually exceeded the share in Massachusetts overall (67.8 percent) because of the region’s strong concentration of individuals with Some College education (including Certificates) or an Associate’s Degree.

Looking forward, the region faces the demographic challenges of an aging population and potential shortfalls in workers with the educational levels desired by employers. The Cape & Islands is the oldest region in the state. Compared with the population in 2000, the number of residents in the region who are 44 years old or younger has declined, while those who are 45 years and older has increased. As a result, in 2008–2010, more than half of the region’s civilian labor force (56.4 percent) was 45 years of age or older, while less than one-quarter (23.4 percent) was 34 or younger. This suggests that the region’s businesses may face a potential overall shortage of younger workers to replace baby boomers as they retire in the coming decades. The trend may be particularly troublesome given that 90.4 percent of the region’s employees are also residents of the region. To foster strong economic growth in the future, the Cape & Islands should strive to align the education of its labor force to meet the demands of the region’s employers. The higher education institutions in the region can play a key role in influencing the future supply of workers with post-secondary degrees. This supply will be critical to help meet the demographic challenges posed by the aging workforce and the demand for educated workers. However, the post-secondary education sector in the Cape & Islands is relatively small: In 2010, the region had only five post-secondary educational institutions. Nearly 60 percent of full-time enrollees and almost all part-time enrollees attend the region’s only public two-year institution, Cape Cod Community College. Growth in full-time student enrollment at less-than-two-year, twoyear, and four-year institutions in the Cape & Islands has exceeded state and national trends, but part-time enrollment at each type of institution in the region has declined.

Growing full-time enrollment has translated into increased degree and program completions, mostly at the region’s three public institutions. In fact, the strong growth in completions at public institutions in the region over the past decade resulted in the strongest growth in total completions in each of the three types of post-secondary degrees (Certificates, Associate’s Degrees, and Bachelor’s Degrees) of all regional labor markets, exceeding both state and national trends. The majority of Bachelor’s Degrees in the Cape & Islands have been earned in Engineering & Computer Sciences, while Associate’s Degrees in the region have been concentrated in Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences. Certificate completions, on the other hand, have been more volatile in both number and composition, with Services and Health Sciences accounting for the largest shares.

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Geography of the Regional Labor Markets

small map of massachusettsThe Cape & Islands labor market borders the Southeast regional labor market. It is composed of the 23 Massachusetts cities and towns that make up Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket counties. Its larger cities and towns include Barnstable, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Sandwich, and Bourne. Because of data limitations, in certain aspects of our analysis (such as industry/occupational distributions), the Cape & Islands is combined with the Berkshire, Central Mass, Northeast, Pioneer Valley, and Southeast labor markets and is referred to as the region Outside Greater Boston. See the Geographic Definition Appendix pdf for further details.

 

map of the cape and islandsregion

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Employment Trends and Recessions

Massachusetts reached peak employment in 2001 and remained 5.0 percent below its peak (a loss of 169,800 jobs) at the end of 2011. Over the same period, total employment in the United States ended at only 0.4 percent below its 2001 peak (a loss of 513,700 jobs). One reason for the difference was that the short national recession at the beginning of the decade created a prolonged contraction and slow recovery in Massachusetts. By the start of the Great Recession, Massachusetts had still not recovered all of the jobs it had lost during the previous downturn. In contrast, the nation experienced a short labor market contraction in 2001, followed by a strong recovery that expanded employment up until the Great Recession. The Great Recession impacted the nation severely, while Massachusetts experienced a less pronounced downturn, with a slightly stronger recovery through 2010 followed by slower employment growth in 2011.

chart showing nonagricultural employment for the United States and Massachusetts

These differences between Massachusetts and the United States over the economic cycles are important to keep in mind when evaluating the performances of the eight regional labor markets. When possible, these labor market profiles will look at labor market information for the beginning of the millennium, the period preceding the Great Recession, and the decline in and recovery from the Great Recession.

SECTION II: Measuring Labor Demand
Employment Trends of Jobs and Workers in the Cape & Islands