Monday, December 5, 2011

Trends: Jobs and Diplomas

As the new century got going, we were engaged in preparing a statistical series at my company titled Social Trends & Indicators USA. We assembled once a week to discuss new chapters we were adding, each author reporting on his or her work. One of us startled the company by announcing (this was 2002) that, in the future, the economy would be seeking people who did not require college degrees. As you might imagine, we had a lively session. Today I want to show you some trends in labor force participation by those with no high school degrees, those with high school diplomas but without any college, and those with bachelor degrees and higher—all aged at least 25 or older. Here the three graphics:

What these graphics show is the percent of the category actually participating in the labor force, by month, from January 1992 through November 2011. In this period, the group with the least education increased its participation by 5.7 percent, those with the most lost 5.4 percent of participation, and those in the middle lost 5.9 percent. The process is slow, to be sure, but the trends...

Well, the trends are telling. Aren’t they! Ah, yes, attention to detail. By the Media, by the political establishment. This sort of thing—a slide toward the Third World—will take place unless we concentrate on the facts of economic life rather than on vague ideologies about the market. When the child decides to get a job rather than struggling with high-school algebra, he or she actually might get a job whereas, after endless years of labor, he or she, fixed up with an advanced degree, may have to settle for work as a retail clerk after all.

The data shown come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but I obtained them from the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank’s FRED facility here.

1 comment:

  1. These charts are striking! Yes, I recall that meeting in which we first discussed the BLS's employment forecasts for the first decades of this new century and even so, these charts are striking.

    The scales are quite different , of course, but as you say, the trends are very defined. This makes me want to look up a breakdown of the overall labor force by educations level... one day soon.

    Thanks for these charts!