On Friday, the U.S. Labor Department issued a stellar employment report: 222,0000 jobs added to the nation’s economy in June and the unemployment rate at a dazzling 4.4 percent, a figure unimaginable even five years ago, when the rate clocked in at 8.2 percent.
But, even with that, nearly 7 million people remain unemployed — including people in their 50s who are highly educated and, when employed, have a median household income of $83,546.
Across the nation, those attributes describe 11 percent of the unemployed, just over one in 10. In Philadelphia, this description applies to just 3 percent of the jobless.
But in Montgomery County, 28 percent of the unemployed fall into that category — ranking the suburban Philadelphia county second in the nation behind Seattle in the proportion of highly educated people among the unemployed, according to the Brookings Institution. Last month, it released a report categorizing the unemployed in 130 of the nation’s largest counties, with the idea that a better-nuanced understanding of the jobless can lead to better public policy and workforce development to return them to employment.
“It should be an important employment-policy priority to get these people back to work,” said Martha Ross, who wrote the Brookings Institution report with fellow researcher Natalie Holmes.
“Unemployment can be a waste of their skills and their assets if they can’t plug themselves back into the economy,” Ross said. “It may be that employers who are bemoaning the lack of employees with skills are overlooking this talent pool.”
In Bucks County, 23 percent of the unemployed are older, highly educated, and have high household incomes. That puts it in a tie for seventh place with Bergen County, N.J. Locally, Camden and Delaware Counties were large enough to be included in the study — the proportion of highly educated, high-income jobless in those counties was below the national average, according to the report, drawn from U.S. Census data.
On Saturday, a panel of four human resource managers gave employment advice to 185 people gathered at Penn State’s Great Valley campus for the monthly meeting of My Career Transitions. The group, which skews white, suburban, and professional, was started in 2005 as a support and networking organization for people who lost or want to change their jobs.
Among them Marie John, 66, who has a master’s degree in behavioral health, lives in Jeffersonville, Montgomery County, and has been out of work for a year. She’d fit the profile if she had ever earned more money, but the field of behavioral health doesn’t pay well.
“This group is excellent,” John said. Formerly a vocational counselor for Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor, she said it has been hard for her to find a job “because I have a master’s degree and the salary range is very low in this field. There are a lot of jobs for behavioral health that pay in the $40,000 range, or are on a per diem basis, and it’s very difficult for a single person to live on that kind of money.”
Joseph Long, of Warrington, also attended. With a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and, until he was laid off from a high corporate position in finance, a household income well over $80,000, he’d fit the profile if he were a little older.
Long, 44, lost his job in October when divisions in the company were consolidated. Long had been vice president and divisional controller for Catherine Stores Corp., the plus-size fashion retailer affiliated with the Ascena Retail Group Inc.
Ascena just filed a notice with the Department of Labor saying 191 people would be permanently laid off by Aug. 15 in Bensalem, once the headquarters for a predecessor company, Charming Shoppes, which operated Fashion Bug stores.
“There are less jobs out there” for someone at his level, he said. “And companies are consolidating,” eliminating more executives at the top.
Jennifer Butler, executive director of MontcoWorks, the county workforce development board that operates CareerLink job centers and administers government workforce grants, said she wasn’t surprised by the demographics of the unemployed.
“Montco is an affluent and highly educated county, so it makes sense our unemployment would be the same,” she said.
In January, Bucks County’s CareerLink hired a counselor specifically to deal with the more-educated, more-professional job seeker. So far, the counselor has placed 32 people at jobs commanding an average of $72,000 a year, said Brian Cummings, who leads the county’s CareerLink.
“I think some of the struggles [this group] has is relevance to the workplace,” Cummings said. Many have been with their companies for years and don’t know how to look for a job in today’s world. “They need one-on-one attention.”
Both counties also skew older in age.
Other groups in the Brookings report include less-educated, prime-age people — the largest category, making up 38 percent of the unemployed — and motivated and moderately educated young people, the next-largest group at 14 percent.
My Career Transitions:
What: Volunteer nonprofit organization provides free networking and job coaching for people who are out of work or want to change jobs.
Where: Penn State Great Valley
When: 9:45 a.m., second Saturday of the month, except August and December.
For more information: www.mycareertransitions.com