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Americans With More Education Have Taken Almost Every Job Created in the Recovery

Division between "college haves" and "college have-nots" part of greater shift in makeup of labor force

As the U.S. recovery lumbers into its eighth year, Americans with at least some higher education have fared especially well in the labor market. The less-schooled, however, have found a much grimmer reality. 

Of the 11.6 million jobs added since the rebound took hold in 2010,  about 99 percent — or 11.5 million jobs — were filled by people with either at least some college education, a bachelor's degree or better, according to a study by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. Only 80,000 spots went to workers with a high school diploma or less, according to the report authored by Anthony Carnevale, Tamara Jayasundera and Artem Gulish.

"It’s not just a factor of a more educated population, it’s how the labor market is changing," said Jayasundera in an interview. "The labor market is demanding a more skilled workforce."

The disparity points to a longer-term change in occupational patterns. Industries increasingly require higher-skilled workers, the authors wrote. In the manufacturing sector, a majority of jobs regained have gone to workers with more than a high school diploma. Technological advancements and automation have eliminated the need for clerical and administrative roles as well as hands-on jobs in sectors like construction, as those areas had some of the weakest job recoveries.

The growing supply of college-educated Americans has also contributed to the stark differences in labor-market outcomes. This year, for the first time ever, the share of people in the workforce with a bachelor's degree or higher education overtook the share of those with a high school diploma or less, according to the study.

The resulting divide between the "college haves" and "college have-nots" will have an impact on the socioeconomic makeup of America. In the past, men and women without a college education were able to work their way up to mid-level jobs with benefits and build out a middle-class lifestyle for their families, the authors said. Those opportunities are now harder to come by.

"The post-Great Recession economy has divided the country along a fault line demarcated by college education,'' according to the report. "For those with at least some college education, the job market is robust...By contrast, workers with a high school diploma or less hear about an economic recovery and wonder what people are talking about."

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