With all the economic doom and gloom of the past few years, it’s easy to get the idea that there are no jobs out there. This simply isn’t true. Did you know the unemployment rate is actually around four percent and falling....for those who have completed at least one college degree?
Yes, that’s right. Here are the employment figures for various levels of educational attainment according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of July 2012:
Less than high school: 12.7%
High school diploma, no college: 8.7%
Some college: 7.1%
Bachelors degree or higher: 4.1%
The comparable numbers for those with postgraduate degrees, though not available in this month for a true apples-to-apples comparison, are vanishingly small. We’re talking like two percent of PhDs.
So all this hoo-hah about unemployment is really kind of overstated. What we really have is an education crisis, coupled with some serious systemic problems involving low-skilled work. Manufacturing has been moved to China, while agriculture, construction, and other industries have been drawing on illegal immigrant labor.
Even the most uneducated Americans must be vaguely aware of these facts by now. Even if working-class Americans often throw in other bizarre conspiratorial theories when you ask them about it (often with a distinct racial animus, from both parties/races), those of us who are rich and educated underestimate their intelligence. They sure do see what’s happened right in front of their eyes.
Technological changes and globalization were largely inevitable, but we also piled on with self-inflicted wounds like NAFTA, permanent most-favored-nation status for China, the accumulation of massive household debt (an even bigger problem than government debt, by my lights, though it was an issue as well), and of course, the ongoing embarrassment of a political meltdown in Congress.
How do we get out of it? Well, protectionism is a tough sell in this era of free-market worship, but we’ve essentially unilaterally disarmed. The PRC can’t believe their luck. Currency manipulation, central economic planning (which we could use a tad more of, as we had in the mid-20th-century though it’s another idea discredited by the wackos on the right), abominable labor standards, just plain lower wages and greater numbers: they’re eating our lunch. For all their atrocious record on human rights, they don’t see us as having the moral high ground and it must be said they’ve got a point. We humiliate ourselves in front of the world on a daily basis. We certainly don’t look any smarter than China these days, and browsing each day’s news, it’s hard to remember exactly why we think our system is so superior and worthy of imitation.
One thing we do still have (for now)? The best universities in the world. Education remains the key to survival and achievement, not only on a personal level but for the country at large. Be cool: stay in school.
Nadia Jones is a full-time education blogger based in Houston, Texas. Interested in all things academia, Nadia frequently writes at onlinecollege.org for those interested in the realm of online education. For questions and comments reach her at nadia.jones5 (at) gmail.com.