5 Ways Of Looking At Unemployment

Oct 4, 2012
Originally published on October 5, 2012 2:56 pm

NOTE: These graphics were updated at 8:45am after the government released the new jobs report.

The recession ended three years ago. But looking at the jobs picture, that's hard to see: 12 million people are still unemployed, and unemployment is still nearly 8 percent.

But the jobs picture looks brighter depending on who you are. We slice it five ways.

1. Gender

During the recession, the unemployment rate for men was higher than for women. That has to do with the industries men go into versus women. A larger percentage of women work in sectors where there was a lot of job growth like health care and education, while there were a lot of men in industries that cut jobs, like manufacturing and construction.

2. Age

Joblessness is worse for the young. It's almost at 24 percent for people ages 16 to 19 and over 12 percent for people ages 20 to 24. But the recession hit all age groups.

3. Education

The unemployment rate is higher for the less educated. But during the recession, people without a high school diploma were hit the hardest. The gap between the least educated and the most educated widened.

4. How many people are looking?

The unemployment rate only looks at the number of unemployed people out of those looking for work. People who are unemployed and have stopped looking for work aren't counted in the rate.

So it's worth looking at the labor force participation rate for working-age people: the percentage of people ages 25 to 54 who either have a job or are looking for one. We chose this demographic because it excludes the large number of baby boomers who are retiring and dropping out of the labor force.

5. But over the long run, more people are looking

The data since 1950 show that the labor force participation actually went up. That's thanks to many women who entered the work force in the 1970s and 1980s.

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