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New online tool offers low-wage workers a path to higher pay

The online database was launched by the Federal

The online database was launched by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Cleveland. Credit: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Job seekers can increase their earning power with an online database launched this month by the Federal Reserve that matches the skills a worker uses in a low-paying job with those in a more lucrative position.

The Occupational Mobility Explorer resulted from a research report released in June that studied the 33 largest labor markets in the United States. The study found that the skills involved in 49% of lower-wage jobs pair up with similar yet higher-paying jobs in the same labor market, according to report author Keith Wardrip of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which worked with the Cleveland Fed on the project. By using the tool, for example, bill collectors in the New York region would discover that they have many of the skills needed for a post as a credit counselor, a job that pays about 31% more.

Fed researchers defined lower-wage jobs as paying below median wages, roughly below a range of $37,000 to $40,000. Some of the jobs that fall within the lower-wage group include retail sales and food service cashiers, position hard hit by the pandemic.

Researchers found 4,100 "top transitions," or pairings of occupations that shared similar skills in the same labor market, but with one of the jobs paying at least 10% more. The higher-paying position should also not require a college degree to qualify as a "top transition" job.

"You know, roughly two-thirds of American adults don't have a college degree," Wardrip said. "And we wanted to shine a light ... on the fact that the labor market doesn't include just two types of jobs: lower-wage jobs and jobs for college-educated people.

"We wanted to figure out through our most recent research and through the tool ... how can we help workers transition into the better-paying jobs."

Users can find the free online tool at

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