Thursday, September 30, 2010

College grads in U.S. expand their advantage in job security

A story on the front page of yesterday's WSJ about how college grads, relative to high school grads, not only earn higher wages, but are less likely to get laid off and, if they are, are more likely to quickly find another job:

Fifteen years after high school, the working lives of Tremell Sinclair and Phyllis Sellars have evolved very differently, largely because of a single decision. Ms. Sellars went to college; Mr. Sinclair didn't.

That decision has always shaped their economic prospects, but never more so than during the recent recession: Ms. Sellars kept her white-collar job, recently landing a pay raise, while Mr. Sinclair was laid off from his forklift driving job last year and only just found a new one—at a 46% lower salary.

The classmates illustrate a divide between the fortunes of Americans with college degrees and those without. It's not only that the college educated earn more, but that they are far more likely to keep their jobs when times get tough.

By some measures, recession has exacerbated the divide. The unemployment rate for workers 25-and-older with a bachelor's degree or higher was 4.6% in August, for example, compared with 10.3% for those with just a high-school diploma. That's a 5.7-percentage-point gap, compared with a gap of only 2.6 percentage points in December 2007 when the recession began.

Laid-off college graduates are also finding work faster. Their median duration of unemployment was 18.4 weeks as of August, compared with 27.5 weeks for high-school grads. Three years ago, that figure was roughly the same for both groups—9.5 weeks and 9.6, respectively. And among the worst-off 25-and-older workers, the 5.2 million who have been out of work six months or more, only 19% are those who graduated from college, even though that group makes up a third of the work force.

Yet because college is increasingly expensive and doesn't guarantee a good job at a good wage, skepticism about the value of college is rising, even as the U.S. government pours more money into helping people get degrees.


College grads in U.S. expand their advantage in job security

Recession exacerbates the growing divide faced by those without degrees against educated peers

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