95% of Post-Recession Jobs Went to College Educated: Study

Out of the 11.6 million jobs created in the post-recession economy, 11.5 million went to workers with at least some college education, according to newly research from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Of these jobs, 8.4 million went to workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

“The recovery has been virtually nonexistent for less-educated workers,” the study’s author conclude.

The study, America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots, reveals that employment of workers with a high school diploma or less only grew by 80,000 jobs in the recovery.

The authors note that these trends did not begin with the Great Recession, but the recession and recovery have intensified the long-term trends.

The authors also say that the divergent employment trends for workers with different education levels are “primarily tied to structural changes in these industry sectors, rather than anything specific to this recovery.”

“The modern economy continues to leave Americans without a college education behind,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown Center and lead author of the report. “For decades, we’ve witnessed this growing split that parallels the divide in the current electorate.”

Blue Collar Workers

Jobs are back, but they are not the same jobs that were lost. The Great Recession decimated blue-collar and clerical jobs, whereas the recovery added primarily managerial and professional jobs.

The recession and recovery have hastened a long-term change in the composition of the American workforce. In 2016, for the first time, workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher are a larger proportion of the workforce (36 percent) than those with a high school diploma or less (34 percent). Workers with more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree, who are typically employed in middle-skill occupations, comprise the remaining 30 percent of the workforce.

Occupational and industry shifts have been major drivers of change in the labor market. Production industries, such as manufacturing, construction and natural resources, shifted from employing nearly half of the workforce in 1947 to only 19 percent in 2016.

On the other hand, industries that employ managerial and professional workers such as healthcare, business, financial, education and government services accounted for 28 percent of the workforce in 1947 and have grown to encompass 46 percent of the workforce today.

The largest occupational group in the American economy, routine office and administrative support jobs, lost 1.4 million jobs during the recession and recovery, primarily because of automation and the rise in digital information storage. These occupations were a primary source of jobs for workers with a high school diploma or less, in many cases, so the decline of these jobs has hit less-educated workers particularly hard.

The financial services industry, which had been growing markedly for decades before the Great Recession, was hit hard by the Great Recession, with jobs declining by 782,000 between December 2007 and January 2010. But it has made “solid progress” during the recovery, according to the authors. The financial services industry gained 721,000 jobs between January 2010 and January 2016, but it still remains 60,000 jobs short of its pre-recession employment.


The Georgetown Center researchers used data from Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey administered by the U.S. Census Bureau on behalf of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which in some places is supplemented by other data sources. The CPS surveys from January 1989 to January 2016 are used to estimate the employment (18 and over) by educational attainment, industry and occupation. The monthly employment numbers are seasonally adjusted.

The Great Recession period is considered to be from December 2007 to January 2010. The recovery period is considered to be from January 2010 to January 2016.

Other Findings

Other report findings include the following:

Source: The Georgetown Center is affiliated with the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy.