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Unemployment among women with a master’s degree

A seasonal puzzle

The FRED Blog uses a variety of graph types (line, area, bar, scatter, and pie) to help tell the story behind the numbers. But, sometimes, data plots reveal features in the data we can’t completely understand.

The FRED graph above shows the unemployment rates for men and women who are at least 25 years old and hold a master’s degree. The data, available since the year 2000, are provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey (Household Survey). The metadata about these series tells us the data are not seasonally adjusted, so they’re reported without taking into consideration the recurring ups and downs associated with the seasons. The seesaw shape of the data lines is a telltale sign of those seasonal patterns and that’s what piques our curiosity.

Why does the unemployment rate of women holding master’s degrees regularly spike during the third quarter of the year? We don’t know.

The same pattern is also noticeable among men and women holding a bachelor’s degree, but it isn’t immediately visible among men and women holding associate, professional, or doctoral degrees.

We can’t provide an explanation based on solid evidence because there is no additional data that can help us dive deeper on the topic. For example, although there are data on the percent of employees who are women in multiple industries, such as the education sector, those data are seasonally adjusted and can’t help us illuminate the reason behind the seasonal pattern shown in the graph. As is often the case, more research is needed. Stay tuned to the FRED Blog and we’ll share what we find to help tell the story behind the numbers.

How this graph was created: In FRED, search for “Unemployment Rate – College Graduates – Master’s Degree, 25 years and over, Men.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” tab to search for and select “Unemployment Rate – College Graduates – Master’s Degree, 25 years and over, Women.”

Suggested by Lily Levin and Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

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