Economists and education leaders often talk about the increased earning power that is tied to educational and skill attainment. What is rarely reported is the value of education and training during times of economic downturn when unemployment is on the rise.
I requested and this past week received data from the state of North Dakota for unemployment rates by various levels of education attainment during the recent COVID-19 influenced months. Of course, these are averages and individual differences apply.
For the months of March and April, North Dakota data shows that a person is about eight times more likely to be unemployed if they do not have a high school diploma compared to those who have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Individuals with a high school diploma are more than two times more likely to be unemployed during that period compared to those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Unemployment rates in April by education level were 9% for those without a high school diploma, 2.9% high school diploma, 2.2% some college or an associate degree and 1.2% for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. So, as we work to support people and reignite our economy, we must be very mindful of the role education has in lifting up people and increasing their ability to obtain and hold a job.
This is not just a phenomenon during slow economic times but echoes state and national data for more than 15 years. This is not a 100% guarantee by any means, but the data reveals that education and training are ways to increase your financial stability during uncertain times.
While no job or education is 100% recession-proof, education and training can provide additional protection and be the great equalizer to help individuals and families to have a better life. It must be part of our strategy to pull people up and reignite our economy. As a community and a state, we must do our part to encourage and support educational attainment starting with a high school diploma.
Flakoll is Provost for Tri-College University and former member of The Forum Reader’s Board.