Most people know that the employment situation right now is pretty terrible, but the precise way in which it is terrible is poorly understood. The absolute numbers are very high, but the suffering is not evenly distributed. The statistic I see getting thrown around a lot is that unemployment for college educated people is 5% — essentially full employment. Nobody I know has had any luck hiring programmers lately. Unemployment among those with only a high school degree is at 15%, up from 12% this time last year.
Over at FiveThirtyEight, bonddad breaks down all of the unemployment statistics to provide a broad picture of what’s going on in the job market. Here’s the conclusion:
The great recession wiped out lower education/manual labor jobs. And the experience of the manufacturing sector after the last expansion indicates those jobs aren’t coming back.
Given that, it seems easy to argue that our number one long term domestic priority should be to pursue policies that educate more people by improving schools, making college more affordable, and removing obstacles that prevent people from going to school. There’s a lot of talk about cutting government spending, but the best and most realistic option for tackling the deficit long term is to lower the pace of government spending increases (most importantly on health care) and increase the amount of revenue through economic growth rather than tax increases. How do we do that? Educate our citizens.