The Jobless Recovery and the Education Gap

by: Mark J. Perry
The charts above show the differences in: a) monthly employment levels and b) monthly unemployment rates between 1992 and 2011 for: a) college graduates and b) workers with less than a high school degree. The differences are quite striking and interesting, and might help explain some of the labor market dynamics in the current "jobless recovery."

Note that the employment level for college graduates flattened during the 2008-2009 recession, but is now at a record high level. In contrast, the employment level for workers without a high school degree is about 2 million below the pre-recession peak. Likewise the jobless rate for college graduates has increased by a few percentage points because of the recession, but the jobless rate for workers with less than a high school degree has increased by more than six percentage points, and was recently almost ten percentage points above its pre-recession level.

Bottom Line: The current jobless recovery, much more than the last two, is severe and persistent largely because of: a) the falling employment level and b) elevated jobless rate for workers lacking a high school degree. While lacking a high school degree has always been a liability for workers, that liability has gone from a minor liability to now a major setback as we move increasingly into a knowledge-based economy. College-educated workers are doing quite well, it's the less educated workers that are struggling, and will continue to struggle, to find employment and keep a job.

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