The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week that the March unemployment rate in the United States is 5.5%. On the surface, this is great news despite the flat month-to-month performance. However, if we dig deeper into the data the numbers are still bleak for several key constituents of the employment economy, and education and training are likely the vital factor to addressing chronic challenges in the overall unemployment rate. Take for example the U-6 unemployment rate, the indicator often viewed as the best overall measure of employment. This metric includes total unemployed, plus those who are working part-time because they are unable to find full-time work, as well as those who are too discouraged to be considered actively seeking full-time work. That number is also declining as the economy improves, but is still a staggering 11% or over 17 million people.1

Additionally, the unemployment rate of those in the 20-24 age range is still double digits at 10.6%.2 Level of education also plays a critical role in the unemployment rate. Among those lacking a high school diploma or equivalent, the BLS reports an unemployment rate of 8.6%, versus those with a bachelor's degree or higher, who are experiencing an unemployment rate of 2.5%.3

The underemployed, as reported by the U-6 data, and those unemployed who are impeded by their education level, could be served well by pursuing higher education or training in skilled trades where there are significant job opportunities. Occupations like healthcare and social assistance, retail trade, transportation and utilities reported significant unfilled positions at the end of 2014.4

Unfortunately for the unemployed and the underemployed, education and training is not a free service post compulsory age, and often times those individuals need to prioritize a roof over their head and food on the table for their families. Progressive employers are beginning to recognize the competitive need to play an expanded role in training and education of the front-line workforce " current and future. Until then, we can continue to celebrate and applaud the 5.5% unemployment rate, but for those who are unemployed and underemployed, we should all continue to advocate for affordable and quality education and training on their behalf.

Sources: photo; (1) visited April 03, 2015. (2) visited April 03, 2015. (3) visited April 03, 2015. (4) visited April 03, 2015.  # of unemployed calculated based on 5.5% unemployment rate representing 8,705,000 million unemployed. Total workforce = 158,272,800.

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