Although recent bad news on the employment front once again brings home the point that if the country is slowly emerging from the 2008 recession, the job situation isn’t likely to improve for a good while yet. What is hidden behind the numbers is the fact that not every group of job-seekers is equally affected by the slump. The overall unemployment rate, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was 8.2% for the month of May, but while that represented an increase from April, not everyone’s news was quite this glum. On the contrary, people with a college degree saw their unemployment rate fall from last month to 3.9% from 4%. For those with only a high school diploma, on the other hand, the rate went up from 7.9% to 8.1%.
This data point is only the latest in the increasingly obvious trend that, as the economy is slowly recovering, the gap between those with a college degree and those without is growing wider. Nor, if experts are to be believed, is this likely to change, going forward. As the country becomes more dependent on skilled workers, those without are increasingly being left behind.
“We’re not creating jobs in that arena, period,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.
The number of college graduates who are employed increased by about 1.5 million in the past year, to nearly 46.4 million people as of May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The number of people who just have a high school degree and are employed has actually fallen very slightly, to 33.9 million people, the government data shows.
Jack Downing, a managing partner with MRINetwork WorldBridge, a job placement firm, says that the employer demand for engineering and information technology graduates is so strong, that it’s hard to remember that there’s an employment crisis out there. While other people are struggling to find a job, WorldBridge clients are deciding between multiple generous offers, something that the company’s partners hadn’t had to deal with in nearly three years.
According to Downing, the situation is quite different for those without a degree, especially those coming off a long stretch of unemployment. Not only are their skills considered out of date, a lot of the jobs they are qualified for are being increasingly offshored.
Another issue is that employers are increasingly asking for candidates with a college degree even for jobs that might once not have had that requirement.
“They have an option now, so they’re going to take somebody with a college education over somebody that’s not (got a degree),” Downing said. “It shows a commitment to themselves. It shows that they can learn, and most likely are going to be committed to career development.”