Urban Wire These charts are much more interesting than the new jobs numbers
Zachary J. McDade
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By now even I’m getting bored with cautions not to over-interpret of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly jobs report. This month, I decided instead to show a variation on the usual data: monthly unemployment rates broken down by age and educational attainment.

To recap quickly: the number of jobs created last month—the most quoted number in the jobs report—is an imprecise predictor of overall economic trends, despite often hyperbolic press about its importance. (Friday’s October estimate may well be interesting for what it says about the effect of the government shutdown, but will probably offer little evidence about the underlying job-creation trend.)

That’s why I’m actually much more interested in the two charts below. First, they make it quite clear that one number  -- whether it’s jobs created or unemployment rate -- does not paint a complete picture of the nation’s job situation. Second, they tell a pretty clear story about which workers are still struggling the most. And finally, they pique interest in related topics like the growing generational wealth gap and millennials’ relationship to education and work.

Some highlights:

  • Unsurprisingly, the highest-educated workers enjoy the lowest unemployment rates.
  • Only workers with a bachelor’s degree or more have an unemployment rate consistently below the average unemployment rate.
  • In recent years, the unemployment rate among people with no high school diploma has been above 10 percent.

  • The younger you are, the higher your unemployment rate, on average.
  • On average, workers age 35 and older have lower-than-average unemployment rates.
  • Workers under 25 are generally saddled with very high, double-digit unemployment rates.

Data source: Monthly unemployment data come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey (CPS). Data are seasonally adjusted and educational attainment data are for workers age 25 and older, because most have finished their education by that age. 

Follow Zach McDade on Twitter at @zmcdade


Photo by Julie Jacobson/AP

Research Areas Wealth and financial well-being
Tags Employment and income data Wages and nonwage compensation Workers in low-wage jobs Unemployment and unemployment insurance