RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA|The New York Times
After suffering the largest share of job losses in the recession, Americans with no more than a high school education have continued to lose jobs during the sputtering recovery while better-educated people have gained millions of jobs, according to a Georgetown University study.
Even during the recession, as millions of jobs vanished, the number of people with bachelor’s degrees who had jobs did not decline. And even as employment rose during the recovery, people who did not go to college continued to lose ground, shedding 200,000 jobs from early 2010 to early 2012.
“The extent of both are surprising,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown and a co-author of the study. “The economy we all have in our minds is the one we had in 2006, and it’s gone.”
The study, based on data collected by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, divided the nation’s work force of 140 million people into three groups: those who did not go to college, those with some college education or an associate degree, and those with at least a bachelor’s degree.
From late 2007, when the recession began, to early 2012, the number of people with jobs in the least-educated group fell by more than 5.8 million, or 10 percent. In the middle group, recession losses were not as steep and were almost completely reversed by early this year. And in the best-educated group, in which there was no net loss during the recession, the number of people with jobs climbed by 2.2 million, or 5 percent.
(The Georgetown researchers relied on the government’s Current Population Survey, rather than on a different government count, Current Employment Statistics. Each has drawbacks, and Current Employment Statistics showed deeper job losses during the recession, but the overall patterns were similar.)
The disparity in employment based on education has been growing since the 1980s, Mr. Carnevale said, but “both the recession and the recovery have sharply accelerated that structural change.”
The manufacturing, construction and transportation industries, which depend heavily on less-educated workers, had the sharpest job losses in the recession. Those fields are also dominated by men, leading to much commentary that it was a mostly male recession.
But the Georgetown researchers found that the sex disparity had narrowed, with women benefiting less from the recovery, in part because they are disproportionately affected by the decline in government employment.
The most hopeful finding, Mr. Carnevale said, is that in recent years more men than women have returned to school to make themselves more employable, reversing a longstanding trend.
“We seem to have hit the boys hard enough to wake them up,” he said.