Reason 1: 15.3%
Reason 2: 9.8%
Reason 3: 8.1%
Reason 4: 4.8%
Any idea what these percentages represent?
They are current US unemployment rates for individuals older than 25 that have (1) less than a high school degree, (2) a high school degree, (3) some college or associates degree, and (4) a bachelor’s degree or higher. The data show that, even in this challenging economic climate, people with higher levels of education have a greater likelihood of gaining and retaining employment relative to their less educated peers. To many this shouldn’t be a surprise, but with the increasing number of qualitative news stories decrying the value of higher education and its ROI, it’s a topic being increasingly debated.
There is little doubt that labor markets remain tight for workers of all skill-sets at this stage in the US economic ‘recovery’. On average, however, the data still show a definite premium – in terms of job security and salaries – for the more educated.
That is not to say that holding a bachelors or masters degree makes employees immune from economic cycles. At the onset of Great Recession in December 2007 the unemployment rate for people with at least a bachelors degrees was 2.1%. Three years later that figure stands at 4.8%, more than twice as high as when the recession began – something that is true at each education level. What having higher levels of education has done, on average, has insulated those with advancing degrees from the extreme levels of unemployment endured by others.
This level of insulation has actually been extremely consistent over the last few decades. BLS reports unemployment rates by education going back to January 1992 and – as you can see in the interactive tool below – the distance between unemployment rates for each group has remained remarkably steady across the period.
Another amazing stat from the tool is that it wasn’t until late 2000/early 2001 that the number of workers with college degrees in the labor force outnumbered the number of workers with only high school degrees, as the US continued its transition to the so-called information economy.