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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Unemployment Lower, Workforce Participation Higher for More Educated

Stats for breakfast! Watertown school board member Fred Deustch is blogging this week from the big Federal Relations Conference in Washington, D.C. He shares some employment data that shows why university is the best place to ride out a recession. Not only is the university schedule and dress code more relaxed than the office, but you're also a whole lot more likely to get a job and keep it during the next recession.

Deutsch points to BLS data that breaks down participation in the workforce and unemployment by amount of education obtained. The following chart gives the numbers for December 2009 (click to enlarge):
chart of BLS data, Dec 2009, showing participation in the workforce goes up and unemployment goes down as amount of education goes upThe official unemployment rate for folks who didn't finish high school is over 15%. Folks who finished high school and folks who did some college straddle the national average, at 10.5% and 9% respectively. Unemployment among folks with college degrees is at 5%.

Those data don't surprise me. The workforce participation rates do. Over 50% of folks who didn't finish high school not only are not working but are not even looking for work. A majority of high school dropouts either don't want to work, are shut out of the workforce by higher education requirements, or choose to stay home and take care of the house and kids (valuable work in itself!). There is some good sense there: if I had a choice between digging ditches for someone else and staying home to raise my own kids and my own vegetables, I'd be strongly inclined to the latter.

As folks accumulate more education, they have more appealing work opportunities. Plus, having made all the effort to get those degrees, university grads feel that much more pressure to go do some specialized work with those degrees (and pay off their student loans).

It's probably not enough to say, "Go to college, and you're set." University will expose you to new ideas and new opportunities, but you have to have ambition in the first place to jump through the university hoops. Still, it's encouraging to know that, even with so much competition (university grads make up the largest chunk of the workforce, HS dropouts the smallest), the most highly educated workers can still ride out the recession with a 5% unemployment rate.


  1. Fred Deutsch2/06/2010 9:38 PM

    You know how to make better graphs than I do,

  2. Thanks, Fred, but I just push buttons on the computer. :-)


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