The US economy is adding jobs, but the divide between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' is bigger than ever

Workers strike protest wagesScott Olson/GettyFast food workers and activists demonstrate outside the McDonald’s corporate campus on May 21, 2014 in Oak Brook, Illinois.

There’s a new 99 per cent.

11.6 million jobs were created during the post-2008 recovery, and, according to a new report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, 11.5 million of them went to workers with at least some college education. Moreover, 73% went to workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

According to the Wall Street Journal, that makes this year the first time that college-educated workers outnumber those with a high diploma or less. College-educated workers (those with at least a bachelor’s degree) now make up 36% of the workforce, while those with a high-school diploma or less dropped to 34%, down five percentage points from 2007. The other 30% of workers are those with an associate’s degree or some college education.

“Jobs are back,” the Georgetown report stated, but “they are not the same jobs lost during the recession. The Great Recession decimated low-skill blue-collar and clerical jobs, whereas the recovery added primarily high-skill managerial and professional jobs.”

Workers with only a high-school education or less lost 5.6 million jobs between December 2007 and January 2010, and have gained just 80,000 jobs since. On the other hand, those with at least a bachelor’s degree added 187,000 jobs during the recession, and gained another 8.4 million during the recovery. And those tend to be the “good jobs,” according to the report — jobs that pay more than $53,000 per year for full-time workers and include some benefits.

This all adds to the economic divide between the “college haves and have-nots,” as the report is titled. Structural changes have led to “a clear shift in job creation” toward industries that require workers with postsecondary educational attainment — industries like healthcare, consulting and business, financial services, and government. In 1946, these industries accounted for 28% of the workforce, the report states; they now account for 46%.

This shift has been a long time coming, though. The authors of the report write that “college access and success have been the defining factors in the growing economic divide in America since the early 1980s.” It’s not a new phenomenon, and it’s not borne of the Great Recession.

But the recession did strengthen and accelerate the economic divide. Facing a bleak job market, workers with a college education, or some college education, took the middle- and low-skill jobs that formerly went to high-school graduates, Anthony Carnevale, one of the report’s authors, told the Wall Street Journal.

“If you’re running a pizza joint and you’re going to hire somebody…then you’re looking for a more highly skilled worker than you were looking for 20 or 25 years ago,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s very clear there’s been some bumping effect.”

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