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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


College degree no longer spells immunity from unemployment

MILWAUKEE — Amid worse-than-expected job losses and an unemployment rate that hit 9.8 percent last month, new Labor Department data Friday showed the 21-month recession is taking a greater toll on college graduates than high school dropouts.

You’re still far less likely to be unemployed with a bachelor’s degree than if you’re a high school dropout.

But in a telling sign of the breadth of the recession, the latest data also indicate that the numbers of unemployed jobseekers are growing fastest among Americans with higher education.

Since the recession began in December 2007, the number of unemployed school dropouts, 25 and older, rose 99 percent to 1.8 million. Among those with bachelor’s degrees and higher, the number surpassed 2.2 million, an increase of 136 percent.

“”It was a bit of a surprise,”” saidScott Adams, an economist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who first spotted the trend a few months ago when he was a senior economist on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

“”Recessions are becoming a bit more egalitarian,”” Adams said. “”It certainly has been hitting people of all education levels. And no longer is it the case that just having a bachelor’s degree shields you from economic downturns.””

After four months of reports in which analysts cited an easing up of recession, the release Friday signaled a setback.

U.S. employers cut another 263,000 jobs last month, up more than 40 percent from what analysts had forecast and another reminder that, as Federal Reserve ChairmanBen Bernankehas suggested, the recession might be over technically but its fallout will linger.

From May through September, the nation lost an average 307,000 jobs a month, down from 645,000 a month between November and April. The country has lost 7.2 million jobs since the recession began.

The unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent last month, double the rate 21 months ago, adjusting for seasonal fluctuations. The U.S. rate in August was 9.7 percent, compared to 8.8 percent in Wisconsin.

In a report Friday,Mark Marcon, a senior research analyst at Milwaukee’s Robert W. Baird & Co., called the Labor Department numbers “”a material step back.””

“”The September employment report was almost uniformly terrible and a worse result than what we saw in August,”” Marcon said. “”There were only a couple of positive data points in the report and a slew of negative data points.””

Van Mobley, an economist at Concordia University Wisconsin, also questioned the economy’s resilience.

“”I’ve actually heard anecdotally some signs that are very distressing of late in the sense that things are just not bouncing back,”” saidVan Mobley, an economist at Concordia University Wisconsin. For instance, Mobley said, car sales fell off as soon as the federal “”Cash for Clunkers”” stimulus program ended in August, and the latest manufacturing report from the Institute for Supply Management showed a slight decline.

The country has lost 7.2 million jobs since the recession began, and the ranks of unemployed jobseekers have swelled to 15.1 million.

In addition, 2.2 million Americans were able and willing to work but weren’t looking for a job last month, many because they were too discouraged. Another 9.2 million settled for part-time work after striking out at finding full-time situations.

According to the report, high school dropouts have an unemployment rate of 15 percent, compared to 4.9 percent of four-year college graduates.

“”It’s still worth pursuing a bachelor’s degree because the returns in terms of earnings are greater,”” Adams said. “”Plus, if you do lose your job and you have a degree, you’re going to be able to find a job much more easily. You’ll just have more options as we move into an economic recovery.””



Unemployment rate, based on educational attainment, for jobseekers 25 and older:

—Less than high school: 15 percent

—High school, no college: 10.8 percent

—Some college or associate degree: 8.5 percent

—Bachelor’s degree or higher: 4.9 percent

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


(c) 2009, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Visit JSOnline, the Journal Sentinel’s World Wide Web site, at

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


GRAPHIC (from MCT Graphics, 202-383-6064): UNEMPLOYMENT

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