Unemployment rate normal for college grads – so why Occupy Wall Street?

For some reason I thought that not having a chance to get ahead was a big part of Occupy Wall Street. That the top 1% is running away with money from the bottom 99%.

Unfortunately, the unemployment data below confuses that story. It shows a serious education issue and major problems in the African-American community, but not a widespread problem among the 99%.

In fact, if you take those groups out of the equation then the problems are nearly wiped away. Our college grads have an employment rate of 4.2%. The white and asian communities over-all have an unemployment rate around 6.5%.

An unemployment rate of 4-6% is considered normal for a healthy economy, taking into account those between jobs, career changes, etc.

Perhaps, the message for Occupy Wall Street should have been to get more kids through college and help out the African-American community?

November 2011,  Unemployment Statistics – Bureau of Labor Statistics

By Education

  • High school dropouts – 12.7%
  • High school, no college – 8.4%
  • Some college or Associates Degree – 7.4%
  • Bachelor’s and higher – 4.2%


By Race, Sex

White, unemployment rate, 7.2 %

  • Men – 6.8%
  • Women – 6.5%
  • Teens – 21%

Black, unemployment rate, 14.9%

  • Men – 15.5 %
  • Women – 12.7%
  • Teens – 39%

Asian, unemployment rate, 6.5%


By Industry

Highest unemployment rate:

  • Agriculture – 14.9%
  • Construction – 13.1%
  • Leisure and Hospitality – 11.1%

Lowest unemployment rate:

  • Self-employed – 5.2%
  • Education and Health – 5.2%
  • Government workers – 4.5%

Industry most likely for college grads:

  • Professional and business services – 9%
  • Information – 7.4%
  • Financial activities – 6.1%

I want to encourage you to come to your own conclusions about these numbers. What did you come up with?

One I came up with is that it certainly pays to be a college grad (4.2%) and be self-employed (5.2%). Both have the lowest unemployment rates.

Join the Conversation


  1. If I understand correctly, BLS stats do not count college grads who have graduated but been unable to find unemployment as “unemployed.” Based on anecdotal data from friends and family, a significant number of college grads from the current financial crisis era (2008-2012) would fall into this bucket. Underemployment of college grads is another issues that does not appear in these BLS stats.

  2. @Steven – it’s quite possible that the numbers exclude recent grads. I searched a bit on the site and looked at the FAQ’s but couldn’t find anything about it.

    Underemployment is another interesting phenomenon. I graduated in 2001 when prospects were similar or worse for college grads. So my job outlook isn’t all that rosy to begin with. Most of the time I am/was happy to have whatever job I could get.

    My brother graduated at the same time and saw his salary possibilities drop 40% (over 30K) compared to his friends who graduated December of 2000. He also saw the potential opportunities for an electrical engineer go from pick of the litter to two low end jobs at worse off companies in non-ideal locations.

    It was a tough time for both of us, but I think we are the better for it. It pushed the both of us to really think about what we want to do and value the opportunities we do have. In essence, we are not entitled.

    So when I hear about this generation complain about underemployment, or even vent frustration, it strikes me as odd. Of course, I immediately had 9/11 to turn the focus and motivation for my problems into an international calling for goodness.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *