Labor Market Outcomes

Make labor market outcomes available in order to assess how well postsecondary programs affect employability and future earnings. Well-designed labor market information tools can highlight strengths and weaknesses in a state’s postsecondary offerings, show gender or racial gaps in participation or earnings, and provide the basis for more productive discussions between institutions and business leaders.

Recommendation 3

Labor Market Outcomes

Read more

For policymakers, access to high-quality labor market outcome data can be a strong mechanism for accountability. Linking students’ educational records with their employment and earnings histories reveals, on average, how various institutions and degree programs lead to occupations with higher or lower wages and rates of employment. Moreover, labor market information can help students understand how others fared in the job market after choosing one program or another. And it can form the basis for productive discussions between institutions and employers.


JFF recommends that states measure employment outcomes of college graduates for at least five years, ideally tracking whether students are employed in career fields related to their programs of study. This will reveal how well postsecondary experiences prepared students for immediate job entry, as well as for career advancement and higher earnings over time. Wage changes can be very small in some careers but quite significant in others. States also should track labor market outcomes by credential types and student demographics to uncover differences that deserve targeted interventions or heightened scrutiny by policymakers. Finally, states should invest in data tools that consumers, practitioners, and policymakers can use to identify living-wage jobs with critical labor shortages in specific regions.