For high school grads, the economy keeps getting worse

May 3, 2013

Here's a simple look at job gains (and losses) over the past year for workers over 25, broken down by education level:

employment by education
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Notice that the situation is actually getting worse for those with a high-school diploma or less. Compared with April 2012, the economy has 227,000 fewer jobs for those with less than a high school diploma. The country has 315,000 fewer jobs for high-school grads. And this is in the context of a recovery.

College grads fare somewhat better: In the past year, the economy has gained 555,000 jobs for those with "some college" or an associate's degree and 1.5 million jobs for those with at least a bachelor's degree.

Those raw numbers aren't a total mystery — at this point, more than half the U.S. workforce over age 25 has at least some college (86.8 million out of 134 million in the labor force), so you'd expect that most of the jobs added would be in those areas. But the differences in unemployment rate are striking:

Less than high school: 11.6 percent unemployed

High school: 7.4 percent

Some college: 6.4 percent

Bachelor's or higher: 3.9 percent

Now, as it turns out, the picture isn't completely rosy for college graduates — that 3.9 percent unemployment rate is far higher than it was at any point between 1993 and 2007. And the picture is even worse for recent college grads. Those who graduated in 2011 had an unemployment rate of 12.6 percent.

But college graduates are still faring much better than those with just a high school diploma or less. For the latter group, the employment situation has actually deteriorated over the past year, with jobs continuing to vanish and workers leaving the labor force altogether.

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Ezra Klein · May 3, 2013