March 22, 2023

Economix Blog: College-Educated Workers Gaining Jobs, High School Grads Losing Them

Still don’t believe us when we say that college is worth it? Just look at the latest jobs numbers.

In December, workers with bachelor’s degrees or other postsecondary educations gained jobs. On the other hand, the number of workers with high school diplomas or less who were employed fell.

Here are the numbers:

DESCRIPTIONSource: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Workers with at least some higher education have been doing better than high school grads for a while now, too.

Over the last year, an additional 1,068,000 bachelor’s degree recipients have found work, for example, while the number of employed workers with no more than a high school diploma fell by 551,000.

Interestingly, though, the least-skilled workers have also added jobs over the last year. The number of high school dropouts who had jobs rose by 126,000 from December 2010 to December 2011:

DESCRIPTIONSource: Bureau of Labor Statistics

It’s not clear why those with the very least education would be doing better than those with high school diplomas.

The numbers do support David Autor‘s argument that the work force is hollowing out, producing very low-skill service jobs that generally cannot be done by machines or workers abroad (like food services) and higher-skilled jobs that require greater schooling (like medical jobs).

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Economix Blog: Older Workers and Joblessness

As I wrote in an article on Friday, even those who are back at work are not necessarily doing so well: only 7 percent of those who lost jobs after the financial crisis have recovered their income and standard of living. What’s more, the downturn and its aftermath have disproportionately hit people with less education. Even though the unemployment rates of high school dropouts and graduates have fallen from recent highs, they are still much higher than the rate for college graduates.

The Labor Department’s jobs report for November, released Friday morning, also shows that the number of employed high school graduates actually fell by 187,000 over the last 12 months, while the number of employed college graduates has gone up 1.1 million during the same period.

Nevertheless, readers have pointed out that even among the college-educated, there is one cohort that is still feeling more pain: older workers. More than half of all unemployed workers 45 to 54 years old have been out of work for six months or more, and among unemployed 55-to-64-year-olds, close to 60 percent have been searching for work for more than six months.

People in the older of these two groups are worse off than they were a year ago. The median duration of unemployment rose from 36.6 weeks a year ago to 42.7 weeks this November. The younger of the two groups is slightly better off; its median duration of unemployment fell to 27.9 weeks, down from 30.2 weeks a year ago.

For the human faces of these numbers, one reader suggests looking at the site Over 50 and Out of Work.

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