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Letter From the Editor

December 2012

Why Education Matters

The cover headline in a recent issue of Newsweek magazine posed a question that people are increasingly asking these days: "Is College a Lousy Investment?" As with most things in life, the answer depends. Unemployed college graduates, saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt and living in their parents' basements, might not think college is worth the cost. But experts generally agree that education pays off in the long run.

Three stories in this issue of Trends look at the relationship between education and employment, using different approaches and sources of data.

Ellie Schriner, an Eagan High School senior who was an intern in DEED's Labor Market Information Office this past fall, analyzed Bureau of Labor Statistics data to compare unemployment rates based on education levels. Not surprisingly, her research found that people with higher educations have lower unemployment rates. What's notable, however, is the size of the employment gap. At the height of the recession in 2009, Minnesotans without a high school diploma had an unemployment rate that was nearly six times higher than those with bachelor's degrees. It should be mentioned, however, that many of the college-educated ended up in jobs that they were overqualified to do, a condition known as "malemployment."

Cameron Macht took another approach, looking at Quarterly Workforce Indictors data to analyze which industries in Minnesota have the most highly educated workforces and which have the least educated workers. It turns out that more than three-fourths of the jobs in the utilities sector are held by workers with some college experience, while only 14 percent of the workers in the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas industry meet that standard.

Finally, Amy Gehring analyzed the pay of construction trades and health care workers in Minnesota before and after they earned associate degrees or sub-baccalaureate awards. Her research showed a connection between more education and higher wages in those industries.

This issue also includes our cover story about careers in the growing social media industry and another article about where the long-term unemployed are finding work. Some people who have been out of work for long stretches, such as mining workers, are returning to their old occupations at similar pay. Many others, however, have been forced to switch to new fields that pay less money.

Officially, the Great Recession has been over for more than three years, but long-term unemployment and its aftermath offer stark evidence that many people are still feeling the effects.

Monte Hanson

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