To find a job in the new economy, first go to college: The U.S. has created 11.6 million jobs during the economic recovery, and workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher have claimed three out of four of them.

That’s one of the startling findings in a new Georgetown University report that shows how the recession and recovery accelerated changes in the makeup of the American workforce — largely at the expense of unskilled workers and those with no more than a high school education.

“The least educated workers, those with a high school diploma or less, were the first fired in the recession and the last hired in the recovery,” the report warns. “Conversely, those with the most years of college were the last fired in the recession and the first hired in the recovery.”

America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots,” also highlights which occupations are in demand, noting a “structural shift” away from blue-collar jobs and entry-level white-collar work.

There are still 1.6 million fewer people employed in construction than there were in 2007, and 1 million fewer manufacturing jobs. White-collar jobs that don’t require a college degree haven’t bounced back either — of the 1.7 million office and administrative support jobs lost during the recession, only 300,000 have come back.

Step back and look at the big picture, and the situation looks even worse for those holding no more than a high school diploma.

“Between 1989 and 2016, total employment grew by 31 percent, from 114 million to 149 million jobs — a net increase of 35 million jobs,” the report notes. “Yet the number of jobs for workers with a high school diploma or less actually declined by 13 percent over that period, a loss of 7.3 million jobs.”

These occupations are in demand

For the first time ever, workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher now make up a larger proportion of the workforce (36 percent) than workers with a high school diploma or less (34 percent).

The chart from the report below illustrates high-skill occupations that are in the greatest demand, with management, healthcare professional and technical, computer and mathematical science, and business services and financial operations leading the way.


Source: “America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots,” Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

The takeaway for those considering whether college is worth the investment?

  • Although it’s best to borrow as little as possible to get through college, those who complete their degree will have a competitive advantage that should help them repay their student loan debt when they graduate.
  • Not all college degrees will deliver the same return on investment. There are many online tools that can help you research the cost of your degree, and what you can expect to earn with it.
  • College graduates who took out student loans to land one of those 8.4 million new jobs may find that their earnings and credit history qualifies them to refinance that debt at a lower interest rate with private lenders.

Although refinancing with a private lender often means giving up some benefits packaged with federal loans, like access to income-driven repayment programs and loan forgiveness, borrowers who have refinanced through the Credible platform stand to save nearly $19,000 over the life of their loan.

Credible is a multi-lender marketplace that allows borrowers to get personalized rates and compare loans from vetted lenders, without affecting their credit score.

A longtime news reporter and editor, Matt Carter is out to help consumers find the information they need to make informed decisions about their personal finances. He's an avid producer and consumer of news and analysis about new business models and tools, market trends, and politics and regulations. Email: