The Collapse of the School to Work Transition for Young High School Graduates

Several months  ago, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics issued a report on the college enrollment/labor market status of high school graduates from the Class of 2012 as of October 2012.  The report highlighted the fact that about two thirds of all high school graduates were enrolled in a 2 or 4 year college and that  just under 70% of those graduates not enrolled in college were actively participating in the labor force., a high fraction of whom were unemployed (36%).  The report did not, however, cite the key  finding that only 45% of those who did not enroll in college were employed  in any type of job, tied for the record low employment rate  of the past two years  for such graduates for the last 50 years.  Young high school graduates in the U.S. were faring extremely poorly on all labor market measures.

The CLMS recently prepared  a report with Job’s for America’s Graduates, examining in detail the employment outcomes for those  young high school graduates from the class of 2012 who  were not enrolled in college.  Among our major findings are the following:

  • The overall employment rate for non-college enrolled grads was slightly below 47%, tied with the two previous  years for  the worst employment rates since the data  series began in the late 1950s.
  • For non-college enrolled men, the employment rate  was only 44%,  the lowest ever recorded, 28 percentage  points below the rate in 2000.
  • Employment rates are extremely low for Black (29%)  and low income youth(31%)
  • The share of employed youth with full time jobs was only 43%, the lowest ever recorded.
  • The full time employment rate for these non-college enrolled graduates for 2012 was only 19%, the lowest ever in the series.  For Black males it was 5%.  No gender or race-ethnic group achieved  a full time employment rate above 26%.

The absence of work, especially full time jobs, among recent high school graduates will reduce their future employment, wages, earnings, and training investments from employers.  It is also a major contributing factor to the “quiet riots” mentioned five years ago by then Senator Obama in a 2007 talk at Hampton University.  The presence of so many idle young high school graduates especially in our inner cities also sends the wrong signals to those youth contemplating dropping out of school.  If a  high school diploma is so important, why are there so many young grads out there  with nothing to do?  Who will well the people?  We hope that you will help us spread the word.  The time for a national policy response is now!

Full Report:  JAG School-to-Work Transition Policy Brief #1