By Rich Sobolewski
Director of Interactive Content

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -  The Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies has a released a new report on the economy in the metro Chattanooga area.

The report quantifies what many of us had already felt, the impact of the recession on the local job market, and even the path to new jobs: higher education.

According to the report, the most jobs were lost from largest sectors: manufacturing, transportation and retail. Sectors that typically require less education.

By best estimates from the Ochs Center, six percent of all the jobs in the metro area vanished during the recession years of 2007-2009.

That said, the center says there were still 216,000 in the region and that eight-in-ten of those jobs were based in Hamilton County.

While there were losses in the largest sectors, some of smaller, better paying sectors saw growth during the recession. Sectors like information, computers, and healthcare.

The growth in these sectors meant that the Chattanooga metro has one of the highest average per capita incomes in the state, at $39,569 and the lowest poverty rate of any metropolitan area in Tennessee.

A Clear Line

The study points to a distinct line connection between those with a high school diploma or less and those living in poverty.

The sectors with the highest growth -  computers and mathematics (+120%), arts, design and media (+60%) and healthcare practitioners (+48%)- are also the sectors that require more education.

The report points out that nationally, a person with a college degree earns significantly more than someone without a high school diploma ($46,805 vs $19,405).

The study found that those with college education considered their options for employment to be better (74% said fair or better) than those with a high school education or less (45% said job prospects were poor).

The survey also found that native Tennesseans were less likely to hold a college degree (19.8%) when compared to residents who moved from other states to the region (33.4%) or from other countries to the area (40.4%).

The Glass Ceiling is Intact

When looking at the demographics of the workforce, the study found that the majority of executives and managers were both white (95.9% of executives and 89.5% of managers) and male (77.7% of executives and 62.4% of managers).

The study actually found that more than three quarters of the entire workforce is white.

Minorities only make up about 22% of the labor force in the Chattanooga metro area.

While women typically held positions such a professionals, technicians or clerical; men made up the majority of the craft workers, laborers and manufacturing operators.

UPDATE: Tuesday 6:15PM

It's a long 12 hour day of work for the welders at Phillps Brothers Machines in Rossville, Ga.
Many of the employees build heavy metal pieces for dump trucks and construction equipment.
It's one of many manufacturing industries the Ochs Center for Regional Studies said has suffered in the last decade.

Owner Randy Phillips said suprisingly his business has lasted since the 1970's. In fact he has grown in the 5 years.

The report shows area like health care making the biggest gains over the last decade.

Erlanger Sr. Vice President Greg Gentry said the medical field has continued to grow as technology changes and more skilled workers are needed in specialized fields.

Read the full Ochs Economy report
Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies