United States

OECD maps location of skilled U.S. workers and the employers who seek them


Washington, D.C., November 19 2014 — U.S. employers are demanding skilled workforces, but are not always able to find a local supply, says a new OECD study looking at Job Creation and Local Economic Development.  The report maps the supply and demand of skills across the United States, and offers policymakers proven strategies which can be adapted locally to help boost job creation.


“Creating quality jobs in communities, states, and regions – that’s the aim of local and national policymakers,” said Sylvain Giguère of the OECD’s Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) division. “With skilled workforces becoming increasingly important to firms’ decisions to locate or expand in a local area, policy actors from across the employment, skills and economic development portfolios must work together and coordinate their efforts."


Among the 35 OECD countries studied, the report finds that U.S. employment and training systems are among the most adapted to employer needs, with flexibility for local employment and training agencies to work closely with business, economic development and education officials on longer-term workforce development strategies. That, says the OECD, is key to creating quality jobs.   



Skills Map

The OECD’s Skills Diagnostic Tool allows policymakers to determine if there is a match between the supply and demand for skills in their states.


Using 2012 data, many U.S. states [1] (including Mississippi, West Virginia and Arkansas) were identified as having a  low skills equilibrium— where both the supply and demand of skills are low, a condition which can become a vicious circle, according to the report. The study finds evidence that technical assistance, management training, and embedding skills policies in broader mechanisms for business support can encourage demand for higher levels of skills.


By contrast, the OECD identified a significant number of U.S. states [2] (including Connecticut and Massachusetts) and the District of Columbia as having both a high demand for, and supply of, skilled populations. These are considered conditions ripe for quality job creation.


While still lagging behind other areas of the U.S., the OECD has identified both West Virginia and Arkansas as “places to watch”, with both states witnessing the largest percentage increase in the demand for skills from employers and the available supply of skilled workers over the period 2006-2012.


The report provides further insight by looking at unemployment rates in the 179 sub-regions of the United States, highlighting large variations: between 2.4% in Minot (ND) and 15.2% in Fresno-Madera (CA). Unemployment was below 6% mostly in the northern central regions, while it was highest in the west. Nevada and Rhode Island showed the highest total unemployment (9.8% and 9.2% respectively).


The report also offers guidance to local policymakers for seizing opportunities associated with the greening of the economy, managing impacts of climate change on the labor market, fostering entrepreneurship and attracting high-growth firms.




For comment or further information, journalists should contact Sylvain Giguère (, Head of the OECD LEED Program, Miguel Gorman, OECD Washington Center press officer (


The report and links to the data and methodology are online:


Go directly to U.S. country note in the report:

[1] Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North, Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

[2] California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington.


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