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Unemployment Data Most Bleak For High School and College Drop-Outs

By on January 3, 2012
Domestic, Gainful Employment, K-12, Required, Unemployment, Universities & Colleges


by zeiss66super via Flickr under Creative Commons

We have more evidence that venture capital tycoon and Paypal founder Peter Thiel is serving up bad dope. In his quest to pay smart kids (a few select grantees) to drop out of collegeand calling higher education a “bubble,” he is sending the wrong message to young people.While reading reports today on, we came across a perspective from Zack’s chief equities strategist Dirk van Dijk, which caught our eye. His simple advice in today’s economy: Stay In School!

Why? Because more jobs and better jobs are going to those people with a better education both high school and college. The jobs data is bearing that out. Van Dijk writes:

Dirk van Dijk, chief equity strategist at

Over the last year, the economy is actually doing a much better job of creating “good jobs” than it has been in creating bad jobs. The total number of new jobs for people 25 or older is 1.242 million. Of those, 1.093 million went to people with a Bachelors degree (or better). High school graduates have been the big losers, on balance losing 187,000 jobs, but high school dropouts have seen the addition of 218,000 jobs. So, on balance, we see a very small gain for those who never went to college. The junior college set saw an addition of 118,000 jobs.

The unemployment rate for high school dropouts fell to 13.2% from 13.8% in October. It is down from the year ago level of 15.7%. The drop for the month is actually far less impressive than the drop in the unemployment rate alone would indicate. The participation rate amongst the dropouts fell to 47.0% from 47.4% last month but up from 46.6% a year ago.   

Just finishing high school or getting your GED substantially increases your odds of having a job.  The unemployment rate for high school grads (with no college) fell to 8.8% from 9.6% in October. It is down from the 10.0% rate a year ago.  In all three months, the level was still far below that for dropouts. This month the unemployment rate for dropouts was 50.0% higher than for those who at least finished high school.   

For those who stay in school to get their BA (or higher) the unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.4% for the month, and is down from 5.1% a year ago. The participation rate rose to 76.0% from 75.8% in October, but is down from 76.6% a year ago.  The percentage of college grads with jobs rose to 72.6% from 72.5% last month, but down from 76.6% a year ago.   

The graph shows the long-term history of unemployment by level of education.  While the level of  unemployment is always higher the less education one has, the relatively uneducated really get hit hard when the economy turns south.

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Jan 4, 2012

Do you have the link to the graphic on its original site?
-Nathan W.


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