Trying to Make Sense of College and Jobs Numbers


The bad news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is that fewer high school graduates had opted for college as of October 2013. The good news was that more grads had jobs or were at least actively looking — but maybe that’s because they weren’t pursuing post-secondary education.

The New York Times tries to explain:

Last October, just 65.9 percent of people who had graduated from high school the previous spring had enrolled in college. That was down from 66.2 percent the previous year and was the lowest figure in a decade. The high point came in 2009, when 70.1 percent of new graduates had gone on to college.

At the same time, there were some encouraging signs in the report, which is released annually. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 51 percent of the high school graduates who did not go on to college had jobs by October, and that 74 percent were in the labor force, meaning they either were employed or were looking for work.

Those figures may not sound high, but they are up from the last couple of years, and may be an indication that the labor market has improved at least a little.

On the other hand, only 43 percent of new high school dropouts were part of the labor force in October, a figure that was the lowest for the last 20 years, the period for which the figures are available. But there was an increase in the proportion of new high school dropouts who had jobs, to 31 percent from 24 percent in 2012, which could be another indication of an improving economy.

The figures are volatile from year to year, partly because they come from the bureau’s household survey.

Still, there seems to be little doubt that the long-term trend of more and more high school graduates going to college has halted, if not reversed. As recently as 1976, the enrollment figure was below 50 percent. It rose to 69 percent by 2005, and since then has fluctuated.

Another validation for the importance of the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan and its Outstanding Talent driver.

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