College & Workforce Readiness

Importance of College Underscored by Post-Recession Jobs Recovery

By Catherine Gewertz — June 30, 2016 2 min read
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Ninety-nine percent of the jobs created in the recovery from the Great Recession are going to people with at least some college education, a pattern that increasingly shuts out people with only high school diplomas, a new study finds.

“America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots,” released Thursday by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, puts an even finer point on the argument that President Barack Obama, his education secretaries, and legions of policy wonks have been making: that young people need at least some college education to thrive in the 21st century economy. They’ve been reflecting the steady accumulation of studies showing an erosion, since the 1980s, of good-paying jobs for those with only a high school education.

The new study reports that 11.6 million jobs have been created since 2010, and 11.5 million went to workers who continued their education beyond high school. Of those, 8.4 million went to people who had earned bachelor’s degrees or higher. Only 80,000 of the post-recession jobs went to people whose highest level of education was a high school diploma.

“The post-Great Recession economy has divided the country along a fault line demarcated by college education,” says the report, written by the Georgetown Center’s director, Anthony P. Carnevale, and two co-authors. “For those with at least some college education, the job market is robust. ... By contrast, workers with a high school diploma or less hear about an economic recovery and wonder what people are talking about.”

That schism reflects a milestone: According to the Georgetown center, which has been tracking the jobs market for many years, people with bachelor’s degrees now make up a bigger share of the workforce (36 percent) than those who earned high school diplomas or never finished high school (34 percent). Workers with more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree make up 30 percent of the workforce.

New jobs have been created after the Great Recession, but the landscape has been rearranged, the Georgetown center found. There are far fewer blue-collar and clerical jobs now, and more managerial and professional posts.

Manufacturing, construction, and natural resources production used to provide jobs for almost half of the workforce 70 years ago, but now employ only 2 in 10 workers, the study reports. Another big source of jobs for those with only a high school education—office and administrative support jobs—took a big hit during and since the recession, losing 1.4 million jobs.

But industries heavy on managerial and professional workers, like health-care, business, financial, education, and government services, which employed 28 percent of the workforce seven decades ago, now provide jobs to 46 percent of the workforce, the report found.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.