ORLANDO, Fla. - Although the nation's unemployment figures are grim for everyone in the labor pool, they don't cut equally across demographic groups. Not surprisingly, better-educated workers fare better than those with less formal schooling - much better.
Recent national figures show that, among people with bachelor's degrees, unemployment stands at 4.4 percent, less than half the overall nationwide rate. But for folks without a high-school diploma, the jobless rate is almost 15 percent - about 6 percentage points higher than the total national rate.
"This recession has hit every group," said Heather Boushey, an economist with the Center for American Progress in Washington. "But the (unemployment) increases among folks at the lower end of the educational scale are pretty striking."
The jobless rate among workers with no high-school diploma jumped 7.3 percentage points from December 2007 to April 2009. Among high-school graduates, it climbed 4.7 percentage points, while among college graduates it rose 2.3 percentage points.
Minority groups have been particularly hard hit: About 13.6 percent of blacks and 10.1 percent of Hispanics are unemployed. Among non-Hispanic whites, the rate is 7.3 percent.
That trend holds even for the most-educated workers: Unemployment among college-educated whites stands at 3.6 percent, up 1.8 percentage points from December 2007. But the jobless rate for college-educated blacks is 7.5 percent, up almost five percentage points from the same time.
College-educated Hispanics have fared better: About 4.5 percent are out of work, up one percentage point from the end of 2007.
It's not clear why job losses among college-educated blacks have increased faster than their white counterparts. Boushey said it could be that blacks work in industries or live in areas that have been harder hit by the recession. Discrimination could also play a role.
Buried in the numbers are people like Angela Wright, a 46-year-old Orlando resident who lost her job in December.
Wright was a safety monitor for an Orlando Utilities Commission contractor when she became ill from complications with an earlier surgery. She spent a week in the hospital and an additional six weeks recovering. By the time she was better, the position was gone.
"It was the best job I ever had," said Wright, who's spent most of her adult life in the restaurant business. "I cried when I got sick."
Wright's been looking for a job since late last year with little to show for it. She's moved in with her mother to cut costs and suspects her age may be working against her. But she's certain her lack of formal education has held her back. Wright earned her general equivalency diploma just last year.
"I didn't have a proper education," she said. "I had to go back and get it."
Wright is counting on even more education to lift her out of her personal recession.
With the help of Workforce Central Florida, she's enrolled in a phlebotomy course that starts in July. When she completes the eight-week program - where students learn how to draw blood and prepare it for testing - she'll hit the job market again, looking for spots with a lab, hospital or doctor's office.
"It's tough right now, but I feel pretty good," she said. "I feel like I'm getting a second chance." Whether it pays offs depends largely on whether April's numbers are the start of something real or just a blip on the state's economic radar.
(c) 2009, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.