Mapping education and unemployment across the U.S.
Much research has been published on the labor market transition from low-skill and routine jobs to high-skill and non-routine jobs at both a national and a local level. But is this job polarization occurring to the same degree across the country? A recent report co-sponsored by the St. Louis Fed looks at the issue of workforce development in light of this changing economy, especially in southern regions of the U.S. that typically rely more on a low-skilled and low-wage labor force. These GeoFRED maps show that the southern states typically have lower levels of educational attainment for both high school (map above) and bachelor’s degrees (map below).
With a currently tight labor market, there’s demand for skilled workers, since these positions are also seeing the most growth. But for some regional economies, especially in southern states, there seems to also be an unmet demand for middle-skill jobs that require more than a high school education but not a four-year college degree.
The FRED graph below shows that the unemployment rate is lower for those with some college and/or an associate’s degree than (i) for those with only a high school diploma and (ii) the overall national unemployment rate.
The southern states trail the rest of the nation in median wages and there are more persistently poor counties in the south. There seems to be an opportunity, then, for investing in that workforce to create a better-skilled labor pool to help grow the regional economy.
How these maps were created: The original post referenced interactive maps from our now discontinued GeoFRED site. The revised post provides replacement maps from FRED’s new mapping tool. To create FRED maps, go to the data series page in question and look for the green “VIEW MAP” button at the top right of the graph. See this post for instructions to edit a FRED map. Only series with a green map button can be mapped. For the FRED graph, search for “civilian unemployment rate.” In the “Edit Graph” panel, add two lines by searching for “unemployment rate associate degree” (series ID LNS14027689) and “unemployment rate high school” (series ID LNS14027660).
Suggested by Shuowei Qin and Christian Zimmermann.
View on FRED, series used in this post:
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: