There are two very different unemployment stories right now. One group of people is actually doing pretty well these days. For another group, we truly are in a depression.
The distinguishing factor? Education:
Sources: BLS.What gets me about this chart isn't just the difference between educational backgrounds, but the change among each group since 2007. Unemployment for those with a bachelor's degree is up less than 2 percentage points since the recession began in 2007. For those without a high school diploma, it's up more than three times that much -- 6 percentage points. Workers with a college education have been pinched over the last five years. Those without have really been walloped.
It's the same story for average weekly earnings. Those with a bachelor's degree have seen their weekly earnings rise nearly 25% in the last decade. For those with a high school diploma, wages have increased about 20%. If you don't have a high school diploma, your wages have increased just 18% over the last decade, on average. Not only do educated workers earn more, but the gap between what they earn compared with non-educated workers is widening. Fast.
I interviewed Mesirow Financial chief economist Diane Swonk last year, who said:
We peaked in educational attainment in this country in the 1970s, just at the very moment that we were yielding the industrial age to the information age, and paying a premium for ideas and education and higher levels of education rather than manual labor. As a result, the bottom 50% of wage earners started to stagnate in wages, while the top 90th percentile -- 10% -- had those graduate degrees [and] because they were short in supply, started to see their wages absolutely skyrocket.
Makes me wonder: What would happen if these numbers were plastered on billboards in high schools across the country? You tell me.