Understanding the Data Table

Now you’ve got all the important data on your industries all in one place [Tab I] , but there’s still a lot to get your mind around in terms of what the data is telling you.

Conditional Formatting

You can use conditional formatting to quickly get a visual of which industries are important. You can highlight the top 10 or 20 industries in your region for each factor, or those that are above the median, or in the top third. Instructions for conditional formatting will vary depending on what spreadsheet program you are using, so if you’re not familiar with it, search your program's help files for more information. [Tab J]

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Average Ranking

A numerical way to see which industries go to the top is to determine where each industry ranks in a given factor compared to all the other industries. Then you can average these rankings to come up with an average ranking or “score” for that industry. If particular factors are especially important to the way you are approaching your strategy – like wages, or employment – you can use a weighted average to adjust the score to reflect these factors. [Tab K]

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Based on the data analysis you’ve done so far, and looking at the industries through the lens of either or both of these methods, some industries are probably emerging as important to your region. They might be very strong in one or two factors (like employment, or location quotient) or they’re a solid performer across all or most of the factors. Consider this list of industries as your short list, as you begin to look deeper at the suitability of these industries for a sector strategy in your region.

This is also a good time to see if some of the industries you’ve identified could or should be grouped together into larger clusters of similar industries.

Considering Other Factors

Now’s the time to think about one additional piece of hard data as well, and that’s the number of firms in any given industry sector. You can get this data through the same QCEW source you used for employment and wages in the data table you developed, but this time you only need to collect it for the industries on your short list.

But data analysis can only take us so far. The cardinal rule of labor market data is that it’s out-of-date as soon as it’s published! So it’s equally important to take into account what you and your partners know about the industries from living in the region. In addition to data, there are many other factors that will help determine if an industry is a good target for a sector initiative – many of them not very quantifiable, like political capital or the presence of a strong employer who might be willing to act as a champion.

For the industries (or groups of industries, if you’ve decided some clustering makes sense) on your short list, you can use something like this tool to identify and think about the other important factors that go into identifying a sector to target. You might want to add other items to reflect issues that are particularly important in your region or political environment, like green jobs or career pathways.