As Our Parents Said, “Go To School!” - American Society of Employers - Michael Burns

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As Our Parents Said, “Go To School!”

graduatesI distinctly recall “back in the day” when I was complaining about school and why I had to go, my parents' immediate retort was; go to school and you will be able to get a good job – or some words to that effect.

Each month the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes the unemployment numbers for the previous month. The overall unemployment rate and workforce percentage regularly make the media, and as we know, right now the unemployment rate is very low, and the labor supply is tight.

Last month the overall unemployment rate fell to 3.6% in the U.S. and the labor force rate (the percentage of persons employed as a percentage of the total population) stayed virtually the same at 62.4% in March.

Everyone who is looking should be able to get work, right?

In case you did not know, the BLS also publishes unemployment data by education level. This data happens to show your parents were right in telling you to stay in school. Education level does impact employment. The data is from a BLS table called the Employment Status of the Civilian Population 25 Years and Over by Educational Attainment.

The most recent published data for March reports:

            Bachelor’s Degree and Higher                            2% Unemployment

            Some College or Associate Degree                    3% Unemployment

            High School graduates, no college                      4% Unemployment

            Less than high school diploma                           5.2% Unemployment

The table clearly shows that unemployment levels are higher when educational attainment is lower.

One positive statistic reported by the National Center for Educational Statistics is that between 2010 and 2020 educational attainment for persons 25-29 years old increased at each attainment level with the percentage of high school graduates moving from 89% up to 95%, associate degree or higher increasing from 42% to 50%, and the percentage of people with bachelor’s degrees or higher went up from 32% to 39%.

As we all may know, education levels also correlate to higher earnings.

In 2017 the average salary of adults over 25 years of age was $53,536. That is all working adults. Cut that statistic by educational level starting with those with a high school degree, and the average comes down to $38,145 28 – 7% lower than the average salary). The average salary for a person with a bachelor's degree was $67,763 (26.6% higher than the average), and those with advanced degrees average salary was $98,369 (83.7% higher than the average salary).

So, although Bill Gates and some other very successful, rich people can be pointed to as examples of people that skipped higher education and still made a lot of money, generally speaking, one’s odds of being employed, and making more money while doing it, arise from “staying in school!”


Sources: BLS Friday, April 1, 2022: BLS Reports Show Educational Attainment Level Correlated to Higher Unemployment; IES National Center for Education Statistics. Fast Facts; US Department of Commerce Spotlight on Educational Attainment


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