The Post and Courier
Monday, June 29, 2009
The words "uneducated" and "unemployed" share more than a prefix. U.S. Labor Department statistics show that while the nation's overall jobless rate rose last month to 9.4 percent (the highest since 1983), it was a staggering 15.5 percent among those who haven't completed high school — and a mere 4.8 percent among those with four-year college degrees.
You don't need a college education to detect this indisputable lesson of those numbers: The more educated you are, the less vulnerable you are to recession-related job loss.
And the rise in unemployment apparently will continue. President Barack Obama said last week that the national jobless rate will soon eclipse 10 percent. The news for us was even worse in numbers released recently: South Carolina's jobless rate climbed to a staggering 12.1 percent.
The recession-boosted peril of job loss for the uneducated is particularly severe among males. As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, due to the collapse of the U.S. housing market, "the male-dominated manufacturing and home-building industries are both suffering, and that has hurt less educated men far more than less educated women."
Harvard University labor economist Lawrence Katz said that the last two recessions, in 1990-91 and 2001, were more "egalitarian" in their consequences.
But beyond concerns over uneven gender distribution of today's unemployment pain lies the spreading realization that regardless of sex, racial, age and regional categories, more education generally equals more job security. Thanks to that enhanced, bottom-line awareness, many Americans are taking positive action to remedy their disadvantages on the schooling front.
From the Journal: "Across the country, community colleges report record demand from students who want to quickly plug the gap in their resumés."
That trend extends to our community, where Trident Technical College President Mary Thornley has cited the economic downturn as a factor in her school's record enrollment.
South Carolina's leaders should keep in mind that direct link between education and economic competitiveness when setting priorities for how to spend our money. Just as a person's future can be undermined by a low level of individual education, a state's future can be undermined by a low level of collective education.
And though it's alarming to see U.S. unemployment at record levels, at least it's encouraging to see so many Americans catching on to the modern labor-market reality that without a good education, they're highly unlikely to get — and keep — a good job.
Copyright © 1995 - 2009 Evening Post Publishing Co.