Skip to main content

The FRED® Blog

Unemployment rates by educational attainment

Economists and noneconomists alike have long recognized the value of a college degree—or at least some post-secondary education. Although some people do quite well with only a high school degree, many so-called “blue collar” trades like plumbing, carpentry, automotive mechanics, and manufacturing require additional schooling beyond high school. Each month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports four separate unemployment rates by educational attainment for those persons at least 25 years old: (i) those with less than a high school education, (ii) those with a high school education but no college, (iii) high school graduates with some college or an associate’s degree, and (iv) those with a bachelor’s degree and higher. These series, which are plotted in this FRED chart, are derived from the Current Population Survey, which surveys approximately 60,000 U.S. households. The chart reveals the importance of educational attainment in several ways. First, those with a college degree or some kind of post-secondary education have much lower average unemployment rates than those with a high school diploma or less. In February 2014, the average unemployment rate for a college graduate was 3.4 percent; for those without a high school degree, the average unemployment rate was 9.8 percent. (In February 2014, the total unemployment rate averaged across all education attainments was 6.7 percent.) Second, the effects of a slowing economy and recessions tend to affect the less-educated first. Third, recessions have the largest adverse labor-market effects on the less educated. Peak unemployment rates for those with less than a high school education are much higher than all others across time. Finally, the most recent recession caused the average unemployment rate for all educational levels to rise to levels not seen in the previous two episodes (1992 and 2001-2002). But as before, those with a college education were insulated to a larger extent from the worst effects of the recession.

How this graph was created: On the FRED page, click on the “Data Tools” tab at the top. In the box that appears, enter “unemployment by education.” A list of series will pop up. With your cursor, highlight “Unemployment Rate – Less than a High School Diploma, 25 years and older” and then click on the “Add Series” button to the right. To add the other series, click on the “Add Data Series” and repeat the process. (Note: The font size for the titles was reduced to better display the data.)

Suggested by Kevin Kliesen

View on FRED, series used in this post: LNS14027659, LNS14027660, LNS14027689, LNU04027662

Government employment in the US

This graph shows government employment as a share of the civilian labor force. The blue line is local government, the red line is state government, and the green line is federal government not including the postal service. (The latter two series use the right scale.) The regular upticks for federal employment correspond to temporary census workers. The recent evolution, however, looks uncharacteristic: local and state employment are currently on a slide that has not been seen since the late 1970s. On the other hand, federal employment follows abump up, likely as a result of the stimulus program.

How this graph was created
: Select Civilian Labor Force, add the series Local Government Employment to same line, then apply the equation b/a. Repeat for the other two series, selecting the scale to the right. Adjust the sample to start in 1955. Save.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann

View on FRED, series used in this post: CES9091100001, CES9092000001, CES9093000001, CLF16OV

The new FRED blog

Welcome to our FRED blog, where we feature FRED graphs with brief explanations that highlight interesting data and FRED graph features. We hope to provide a couple of posts per week.

Visit the blog regularly or follow it using our RSS feed.

Currency in circulation

This graph shows the year-to-year percentage change in the currency in circulation in the United States. Until 1950, we notice wide swings; after that, it is a much more stable path. The one exception was a large increase and then a decrease of currency that is associated with the year 2000 and the related “Y2K” fears. Even the years of higher inflation in 1974-75 and 1979-81 are not noticeable compared with the pre-war fluctuations.

If we were to put this graph in absolute numbers instead of percentage change, one would have the impression that currency in circulation is exploding. This is due to the effect of compounded interest. Even with very low growth (or interest) rates, the data will always appear to show acceleration, even if it is not the case. To view this, go to the graph page, click on “edit series,” and change the units to “Billions of Dollars”.

How this graph was created: Select currency in circulation (the monthly series has older data), and transform the series to “Percent Change from Year Ago.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: CURRCIR

Subscribe to our newsletter

Follow us

Twitter logo Google Plus logo Facebook logo YouTube logo LinkedIn logo
Back to Top