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."