Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Year-end Review of Education, Demographic, and Employment Trends

The Pew Research Center recently released two publications on demographics in the U.S.

The first story relates to the current workforce. Pew reports that record shares of young adults are completing both high school and college. This year marked the first time ever that one-third of the nation's 25- to 29-year-olds attained a minimum of a bachelor's degree. College completion reached record levels across many demographic groups: men and women; blacks, whites, and Hispanics; and native-born and foreign-born U.S. residents. Pew attributes these high levels of high school and college completion to greatly diminished labor market opportunities for younger workers in the wake of the Great Recession.

The findings in the second piece may have implications for the nation's future workforce. Pew reports that the U.S. birth rate dipped to the lowest rate ever recorded in 2011. This measure, which is the annual number of births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, declined by 8 percent from 2007 to 2010. The overall birth rate was 63.2 per 1,000 women in 2011; that's the lowest rate since at least 1920. Once again, Pew cites the Great Recession as one of the drivers behind this trend.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also recently released two year-end publications on compensation and employment statistics.

The BLS just released an international comparison of hourly compensation costs in manufacturing for 2011. Among the 33 nations studied, the U.S. ranked in the middle of the pack at $35.53 per hour. Nations with higher hourly compensations costs were primarily located in northern and western Europe, while those with lower hourly compensation costs were found in southern and eastern Europe, along with Asia and Central America. Compensation costs include both wages and total benefits. The BLS notes that between 1997 and 2011, U.S. cost competitiveness improved.

Another release from the BLS details work experience for the U.S. population in 2011. Highlights of the findings show some positive employment news:
  • The proportion of workers who worked full time, year round in 2011 rose to 65.8 percent from 64.7 percent in 2010.
  • The "work experience unemployment rate" -- the number of persons unemployed at some time during the year, relative to the number who worked or looked for work -- dropped to 14.9 percent in 2011 from 15.9 percent in 2010.
  • The number of individuals who looked for a job but did not work at all during 2011 declined by 348,000 from the previous year.

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