BLS Records Show College Graduates Flock to Right to Work States

States Seeking a ‘Brain Gain’ Should Bar Compulsory Union Dues

The nine states with the greatest 2000-2010 gains in their college-educated adult populations all protect the Right to Work. Of the nine states with the smallest gains, only Hurricane Katrina-devastated Louisiana does so.
(Source:  November-December 2011 National Right to Work Committee Newsletter)

Federal data on the American workforce and employment and unemployment rates show that, even with our country struggling through the most severe recession in decades and a so-far anemic recovery, employer demand for college-educated employees has continued to rise at a surprisingly rapid clip.

From 2000 to 2010, the total population of the U.S., aged 25 and over, grew by 12.1%, but the number of people in that age bracket with at least a bachelor’s degree grew by 29.3%.

And in October 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor force participation rate for civilians aged 25 or older with one or more higher-education degrees was 76.4% (not seasonally adjusted), barely lower than it was before the recession started.

That same month, the nationwide unemployment rate for the pool of 47.3 million college-educated adults 25 or over was just 4.2%, well under half the average for the workforce as a whole.

The bottom-line significance of these data is that employers across the country typically have more difficulty finding a qualified college-educated person to fill a position than a college-educated person has finding a good job.

Of course, not everyone who holds a bachelor’s degree and is in the work force is doing well economically. But generally speaking there is still a “seller’s market” for college-educated labor in America today.

Furthermore, many businesses that sustain large numbers of jobs for people with associate’s degrees, high school diplomas, or less education also require a substantial number of college-educated people to operate smoothly.

Therefore, the rate at which a state is gaining college-educated people, relative to the national average, is in itself a good indication of how successful the state is in creating and retaining good jobs.

‘Highly Educated Employees, Like Other Employees, Benefit From Right to Work Laws’

The nine states with the highest percentage growth in their college-educated adult populations over the past decade (see the left column of the table accompanying this article) are located in the Southeastern, Southwestern, Plains, and Rocky Mountains regions of America. And they are culturally as well as regionally diverse.

What these states have in common is that they all have on the books Right to Work laws that make it illegal to force employees to join or pay dues or fees to an unwanted union as a condition of employment.

On the other hand, states without Right to Work protections for employees dominate the ranks of the laggards in increasing their college-educated populations (see the accompanying table’s right column).

Excluding the special case of Louisiana, which lost large numbers of college-educated and other residents after being devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, all of the nine worst performers were forced-dues states.

“The simple fact is, highly educated employees, like other employees, benefit from Right to Work laws,” noted Matthew Leen, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee.

“Employees of all kinds prefer to live in Right to Work states when they can because living costs are lower and real incomes are higher.”

Policymakers Should Pay Heed to Data

Mr. Leen elaborated: “For example, a study by Dr. Barry Poulson, past president of the North American Economics and Finance Association, found that the average household income in Right to Work states, adjusted for interstate differences in cost of living, was more than $4250 higher than the average in forced-unionism states.

“The fact that real household incomes have over the years repeatedly been shown to be higher in Right to Work states than in non-Right to Work states is no coincidence.

“Where forced union dues are legal, union bosses use their power to disrupt labor markets, jack up costs, and bankroll Tax & Spend, regulation-happy state legislators and governors.

“The data clearly show forced-unionism states seeking a ‘brain gain’ should pass Right to Work laws. Policymakers should pay heed.”