The number of people wanting a job is at the lowest level since the 1980s, and the labor force participation rate reveals an interesting trend.
As the level of education rises, so do the number of people in the work force.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that only 46.7 percent of those without a high school diploma are either employed or looking for a job. About 76 percent of college graduates are part of the labor force. Both groups include only people older than 25.
If they had a job, the average income for someone without a high school diploma was $444 a week in 2010.
As the Labor Department notes on its website, education pays. Average wages with a high school diploma are more than 40 percent higher; a college degree more than doubles the average income.
Given the low expected payoff from work, unemployment benefits could be an attractive option for the uneducated. Benefits vary by state but generally replace try to 50 percent to 70 percent of income, subject to a maximum amount. For low wage earners, the benefits could be completely tax free.
Unemployment benefits are capped and the amount varies by state. In Mississippi even a high wage earner would only be able to receive about $230 a week. While this would be substantial for the high school dropout, the college graduate would lose a much greater percentage of income.
Additional government benefits offer relatively small amounts of dollars, but would again replace a higher percentage of income for the less educated. The data show that work doesn’t pay for those with the least education, and the data also show many are choosing not to work.
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