Historical Unemployment Rates

“MontyWanker” wants to see historical unemployment rates by education level, noting, “the anecdotal evidence suggests that this recession was a lot tougher on white collar college-educated workers.”

S/he’s right. It is useless without context. Fortunately, the BLS can provide! Below is a sampling of the unemployment rate in August of each year, going back to 1999. I picked August because that was the last month available for 2009, and I wanted recent numbers.


Clearly the recession’s hit all chunks of the population, but I think this shows that it’s hit the least-educated very hard. It might have been harder on the college-educated than previous recessions, but in terms of percentage unemployment, those with no high school degree got hit bad. Which makes sense, given the loss of manufacturing and construction jobs.

PS: Keep in mind that when we see an unemployment number in the headlines, what we’re seeing is the “U3” unemployment measure, which only counts people who are still actively looking for work. That number just hit 9.7%. If you count the underemployed and those who have given up looking (known as “U6), the number is 16.8%.


One thought on “Historical Unemployment Rates”

  1. Good show Bruno. This makes a much greater statement. As a corrolary to your last point, consider the unemployment exhaust rate, which measures the number of people who have used all of their unemployment insurance (I.e. Could not find a job before benefits ran out. This statistic is reaching highs not seen in the last 30 years.

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