The February jobs report generated a lot of buzz: employment increased by almost 2.6 million in the past twelve months according to the household survey. Unfortunately a more careful examination of the data indicates that there has been no recovery for workers with a high school diploma or GED, or for high-school dropouts. The jobs gap for less educated workers is a structural, not cyclical, labor market problem. Moreover, the fastest grow segment of the labor market is part-time employment for adults age 20-24, most of whom are enrolled in a two-year or four-year college. One out of five jobs added in the past year were part-time jobs for college-age young adults.
There are three groups of workers that account for all of the employment gains in the past twelve months: adults with a college degree, adults with some college education, and part-time workers between the age of 20 and 24.
Here is how employment has increased in the past twelve months:
- An increase of 3.0% (1.31 million) for college graduates age 25 and above.
- An increase 2.2% (753,000) for adults age 25 and above with some college education.
- An increase of 10.7% (527,000) in part-time employment of adults age 20-24.
- No change in employment for the rest of the labor force.
Almost all of the employment gains in the recovery have accrued to college graduates, part-time workers who are college students, or adults who previously attended college. About 51% of job gains in the past year were achieved by college graduates, 29% by adults who attended college but did not receive a bachelor’s degree, and the remaining 20% by part-time jobs for adults in their early 20s, the majority of whom are college or community college students. The remaining 40% of the workforce have seen no net new jobs in the past year.
It is quite remarkable that college-age workers in part-time jobs are responsible for 20% of employment growth in the past year even though they are less than 4% of the workforce. Many students have delayed college completion and took a part-time job, because of the weak labor market. These students want full-time employment that will allow them to utilize their education and training, move out of their parents’ homes, and repay their student loan debt. The growth in part-time employment of college students is an indication of the labor market’s underlying weakness.