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February 17, 2012 Printable Version Printable Version

Unemployment by Education Level
By Jeff Stanley, Analyst

This week’s chart shows the historical unemployment rates for various education levels and their respective averages over the time period of 1992 - present. While the general ordering of the unemployment rates is not surprising, there are some notable takeaways from the chart. First, despite the well publicized recent drop in the overall unemployment rate, the current unemployment rates for each education level still remain near their 20 year highs and around twice their 2007 pre-recession levels. Also, since the recession began, the unemployment rate for those with only a high school degree has been higher than the unemployment rate for the general population for the first time. This shows the growing importance of higher education towards finding and keeping a job.

As the recession carries on, the gap in unemployment rates between those with a college degree and those without remains elevated at historic highs. In addition, for the first time those who have earned a high school degree but continued no further in their education have fallen behind the general population in terms of unemployment. All of this shows that the current recession has exasperated the long term trend of the less educated experiencing much higher unemployment levels than those with a high school or college degree.

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