Widening jobless gap between ‘some college’ vs. bachelor’s

Will a little college insulate you in this recession? Maybe not.

We know that people with high school educations or less get hit harder in economic downturns and the Great Recession is proving that.


But the last few years have also widened the gap between people with some college and those with a four year degree or more.

Plowing through U.S. unemployment data today, we started looking at education levels and were surprised to see how jobless rates have worsened for people with some college compared to those who’ve been able to finish a bachelor’s or better.

I’m struck by the gap between the unemployment rate of people with some college but no degree and those with a bachelor’s. The “some college” jobless rate isn’t much better than the rate for people with only a high school degree.

Ten years ago, there was less than a two percentage point difference in the unemployment rate of people with a bachelor’s or better compared to those with some college and no degree.

The data also raise some concerns for all those folks who’ve returned to college. Enrollment in Minnesota’s state’s two year community and technical college system jumped by more than 10,000 students during 2008 and 2009.

We don’t have updated unemployment rates by education for the state. But if the breakdown is similar to the nation, there may be a lot of folks who thought they were better protected than they were against the Great Recession.

BONUS: Here are links to the raw data used in the charts. If we’ve made any errors, drop us a line and let us know and we’ll correct.

Chart One:

Less than a high school diploma, seasonally adjusted

High school diploma only, seasonally adjusted

Some college or Associate’s degree, seasonally adjusted

Bachelor’s degree and higher, seasonally adjusted

Chart Two:

Some college, no degree, seasonally unadjusted

Associate’s degree, seasonally unadjusted

Bachelor’s degree or higher, seasonally unadjusted

  • Zebulun

    A college degree is no guarantee of a good job either. If you are looking for something outside of retail or the service industry, good luck.

    By the same token, if there is a gap in your job history because you went back to school to finish your education, good luck getting back into the workforce.

  • John O.

    It is still a “buyer’s market” for employers. Many businesses still have people with college degrees coming in looking for work, even though they are overqualified. The good news for the employer (if you want to call it that) is that many of these folks are willing to work for a lower wage.

    The bad news, of course, is that when the job market improves, they will probably lose many of these people to higher paying jobs that are more in line with their prior work history.