Higher education received a bad rap during the recent recession. Observers cited the inability of graduates to find work and countless students lamented the fact that they were paying six figures to join a growing number of unemployed workers. Like many other fictions, this idea crumbles in the face of the statistics. The U.S. Bureau of Labor has shown that college-educated workers were the only group to see an increase (9 percent) in employment since 2008, according to data presented by the New York Times.
The increase was considerable, as the statistics went in the exact opposite direction for those who had not attended any college. An equal 9 percent of this group lost work in the period since the summer of 2008. Workers who have not finished high school have seen their employment drop by 14 percent in the same period.
The Times story made a note of how employers preferred college graduates even in jobs where a degree is not necessary. Administrative assistant and restaurant job positions were filled by applicants with college degrees during this time period, leaving others skilled enough to perform the work unemployed nonetheless…
That puts college education back in good standing. Unemployment rates for college graduates sunk to 3.9 percent in April, about one-half the percentage for the population as a whole. Employers are willing to accept a long-term commitment to a serious goal, which in effect is what a degree represents.
However, the increase in employment was not matched by an increase in actual earnings. Statistics show that wages have not risen enough to curb the effects of inflation and rising health care costs. While the top 1 percent of all earners continue increasing their incomes, the overwhelming majority of workers are not seeing wages rise.
Of course, the recession gave businesses of all sizes reason to tighten their belts and offer employment at low salaries. As growth returns to most industries, it is possible wages could return to a higher percentage of the G.D.P. after hitting an all-time low in 2012. Will employers invest in higher quality employees rather than risk them departing to competitors? Either way, the chips are stacked against anyone without a college degree.
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