Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Educational Attainment of the Labor Force and Jobless Rates, 2003

Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Educational Attainment of the Labor Force and Jobless Rates, 2003

Article excerpt

States differ rather widely in the educational attainment of their workforces. The Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of 60,000 households, provided data on the labor force ages 25 and older in 2003 for four categories of educational attainment--those with less than a high school diploma; those with a high school diploma but no college; those with some college or an associate degree; and those with a bachelor's degree and higher.

Labor force composition

In 2003, Texas had the greatest share of persons with less than a high school diploma in its labor force (17.3 percent), followed by California (14.7 percent). Of the 13 States where persons without a high school diploma accounted for a greater share of the labor force than the U.S. average of 10.2 percent, 8 were located in the South and 4 were in the West. All four of the States along the Mexican border were included in this group. Two Great Plains States--Minnesota and North Dakota--had the smallest shares of persons in this least educated category, each less than 5 percent. (See table 1.)

The share of the workforce with a bachelor's degree and higher was greatest in Massachusetts (43.5 percent). Maryland and New Jersey were the only other States in which those who completed college constituted more than 40 percent of the labor force. However, in the District of Columbia, these highly educated workers accounted for about 55 percent of the labor force. Of the 17 States in which the share of labor force participants with a bachelor's degree and higher was above the U.S. average of 32 percent, nearly half were located in the Northeast region of the country. At the other extreme, fewer than 1 in 4 labor force participants in Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, Nevada, West Virginia, and Wyoming were college graduates. In every State of the East South Central and West South Central divisions, persons with a bachelor's degree and higher made up less than 30 percent of the labor force.

The proportion of labor force participants who completed high school but never attended college ranged from 21.8 percent in California to 43.5 percent in West Virginia. Shares of the workforce with some college or an associate degree ranged from slightly more than 21 percent in New Jersey and Pennsylvania to just more than 36 percent in Wyoming. For both of these intermediate educational attainment groups, the District of Columbia had lower shares than any State: only 19.3 percent were high school graduates with no college, and 16.4 percent had some college or an associate degree.

Unemployment rates

Nationwide, the unemployment rate for persons 25 years and older with less than a high school diploma was 8.8 percent in 2003. The jobless rates for these persons were above the U.S. average in 25 States and the District of Columbia and below it in 24 States. The Pacific division States in which unemployment was highest for persons 25 years and older also reported the highest rates for the least educated group: Alaska, Oregon, and Washington each recorded rates of more than 12 percent. Of the 12 other States in which persons who never completed high school had jobless rates of at least 10 percent, 4 were located in the East North Central division and 3 were in the Mountain division. In the District of Columbia, persons with less than a high school diploma had an unemployment rate slightly higher than 15 percent. Meanwhile, New Hampshire (3.9 percent) and Delaware (4.6 percent) reported the lowest jobless rates for the least educated worker group; both States had overall rates well below the national average. (See table 2.)

College graduates 25 years and older had a slightly higher than 3-percent unemployment rate in the United States. The range of jobless rates across States for this group was the narrowest of the educational attainment categories. Mississippi and South Dakota, at 1.2 percent each, registered the lowest jobless rates for college graduates. …

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