The undereducated still struggle

Workers without at least high-school diplomas are suffering the most in today's economy. Unemployment among college graduates is half the national rate.

By Charley Blaine Apr 5, 2013 2:19PM
Unemployment line up © BananaStock/SuperStockUpdated: 4:35 p.m. ET

Not widely discussed in Friday's jobs report are those hit hardest by the soft economy.

Among the groups struggling the most in this economy are workers who don't have even high-school diplomas.

It's a relatively small group: a work force of 11.2 million. But 11.1% of them are unemployed.

It's a terrible number, but it is better than a year ago when it was at 12.6% or as late as November 2010's 15.7% rate.

Those with at least a bachelor's degree from college are surviving the economy fairly well.

Their unemployment rate is just 3.8%, down from 4.1% from a year ago but little changed this year. Their unemployment rate topped out at 5% in September 2009.
This is also the largest group of workers. The civilian labor force totals 49.2 million workers.

Overall, the Labor Department's March report estimate the U.S. unemployment rate at 7.6%, which was down from February's 7.7% rate. But the rate fell because nearly 500,000 people gave up looking for a job and dropped out of the estimated work force. 

Nationally, the economy added 88,000 jobs in March, the government said, much less than expected. The report was a big reason why the Dow Jones industrials ($INDU), Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) and Nasdaq Composite Index ($COMPX) slumped badly at the day's open. But the big slump brought in buyers in the afternoon, and losses for all the averages were trimmed substantially.

The March report shows clearly that educational attainment counts in keeping a job. Here are the breakdowns:

No high-school diploma: March 2013 unemployment rate 11.1%, down from 12.6% a year ago. Peak unemployment rate: 15.7% in November 2010. Lowest rate since 1991: 5.8%, December 1999 and October 2006.

High-school diploma: March 2013 unemployment rate: 7.6%, down from 8% in March 2012. Peak unemployment rate: 11%, October 2009. Lowest unemployment rate since 1991: 3.3%, March 2000 and April 2000.

Less than a bachelor's degree: March 2013 unemployment rate: 6.4%, down from 7.5% in March 2012. Peak unemployment rate: 8.9%, September 2010. Lowest unemployment rate since 1991: 2.4%, October 2000.

Bachelor's degree or higher: March 2013 unemployment rate: 3.8%, down from 4.2% in March 2012. Peak unemployment rate: 5.1%, November 2010. Lowest unemployment rate since 1991: 1.5%, April 2000, November 2000 and December 2000.

There any number of ways to slice up the jobs report.

One widely watched measure is the U6 unemployment rate, which looks at actually unemployed, those wanting full-time but unable to find it, those who have looked for jobs and given up. The unemployment rate for that group was 13.8%, down from 14.5% in March 2012. The rate hit a high of 17.1% in October-December 2009 and in April 2010.

Teenagers and African-Americans have the highest unemployment rates. For teenagers, it was 24.2% in March, down from 25.1% in February and 25% in March 2012. The unemployment rate for African-Americans was 13.3%, down from 13.8% in February and 14% in March 2012.

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