In the 3rd and final article in this series we’ll examine the national unemployment rate by various demographic factors. Earlier we had seen how widely the unemployment rate varied by state and yet while all states have had increases in unemployment rates since this recession started, many states are showing signs of a leveling off of the unemployment rate. Here we’ll examine the unemployment rate by Age, Gender and Education.
Before I present the data a little background is necessary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics website is a wonderful resource for examining these trends. You can slice the data in a bunch of different ways, age, gender, race, education level, etc. It is precisely because I’m slicing this batch of data by education level that I’m forced to write this caveat. As of April 2009 the national unemployment rate is 8.9%. This means that 8.9% of all people in the workforce age 16 and older are unemployed. But if you want to examine the unemployment rate based on educational level, the BLS’s website forces you to examine workers age 25 and older. (Probably because there are very few 17 year old college graduates.) Thus for all the graphs in this article to be comparable to each other we need to look at workers age 25 and older. To state this another way, in April 2009 the national unemployment rate for workers age 25 and older was 7.5%. To help keep this clear each graph in this article will also show a line for the national unemployment rate (for workers age 25 and older).
First we’ll look at gender. Below is a graph from Jan 2007 to Apr 2009. There is little new news here. Recent reports have been indicating that this recession has been hitting men harder than women and the chart corroborates that. It is somewhat more interesting to see the unemployment rate for men and women to be approximately the same from Jan 2007 thru Apr 2008 when they start to diverge. Also, unlike the various states unemployment rates from last time, the rate for men doesn’t seem to be slowing down much from March to April. Bottom line here though, is that if you’re a woman your unemployment rate is significantly better than the national average.
Next we’ll look at age. I personally find this one a little bit surprising as older workers seem to be getting more press coverage on their plight than younger workers. However the unemployment rate for workers 45 years and older is significantly lower than the national average. This age group also seems to be leveling off in its unemployment rate or indeed reversing for the 45 to 54 age range. Note, the national unemployment rate almost exactly traces the unemployment rate for ages 35 to 44 (in case it’s hard to see the line).
Those last 2 graphs are all well and good. If you’re a woman age 45 or older your unemployment situation is significantly more favorable than if you’re a man age 25 to 34. However, you are who you are, you can’t change your gender or age. This 3rd and final graph shows something you can influence, your education level. In some sense there is little new news here. We’ve all heard that your employment prospects are better if you go to college, but few of us have actually had that old saying quantified. The graph below illustrates just how true that adage is. If you have less than a high school education your unemployment rate is almost twice the national average. If you finished high school but didn’t go to college your unemployment rate is about 2 percentage points higher than the national average. Somewhat surprisingly if you have less than a bachelors degree (either some college or an Associates degrees) your unemployment rate is practically the same as the national average and has been so in good times and bad. But the best news of all (such as it is) is for college graduates. Their unemployment rate is 3 percentage points below the national average.
To be sure every group above is hurting. All have seen their individual unemployment rates double or more since Jan 2007. However, if you’re wishing for the days when the unemployment rate was 4.5% the good news is that you’re already there if you’re a college graduate.