The jobs numbers could hardly have been worse. Not only did the unemployment rate rise to 9.2 percent, and the economy create only 18,000 jobs, but the percent of Americans choosing to participate in the labor force declined to 64.1 percent, the same level as in March, 1984. Over 44 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for six months or longer, making their reentry into employment even more difficult.
But one surprise is that some sectors of the workforce are doing better—those with the lowest and the highest skills. Adult women, whose unemployment rates did not decline, are also doing better than men. Their unemployment rate is 8 percent, compared with 9.1 percent for men.
Unemployment rates for adults without a high school diploma declined from 14.7 percent to 14.3 percent, and their employment rose by 11,000. Hispanic employment, traditionally low-skill, increased by 139,000, and Hispanic unemployment declined by three tenths of a percentage point.
At the upper end of the educational scale, for workers with a BA and above, unemployment declined by a tenth of a percentage point and employment rose.
In contrast, those with a high school degree and no college, and those with some college or associate degree lost jobs and their unemployment rates went up. For high school graduates, unemployment rose from 9.5 percent to 10 percent, and for those with some college it rose from 8 percent to 8.4 percent.
This suggests that as the costs of labor rise, employers are moving towards low-skill labor and more high-skill labor. They’re going down-market in some cases, and substituting towards machines and more high-skill labor in others.
What’s needed is regulatory reform to make it easier for employers to hire workers.
Then employers will find it easier to create jobs.