In October 2009, 70.1 percent of 2009 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on April 27. This was a historical high for the series, which began in 1959. Recent high school graduates not enrolled in college in October 2009 were more likely than enrolled graduates to be in the labor force (70.0 compared with 42.1 percent).
Information on school enrollment and work activity is collected monthly in the Current Population Survey (CPS), a nationwide survey of about 60,000 households that provides information on employment and unemployment. Each October, a supplement to the CPS gathers more detailed information on full-time and part-time school enrollment status, level of education, and enrollment status a year earlier.
Recent High School Graduates and Dropouts
Of the 2.9 million youth age 16 to 24 who graduated from high school in January through October 2009, 2.1 million (70.1 percent) were enrolled in college in October 2009. The college enrollment rate of recent high school graduates has been trending up; in October 2008, 68.6 percent of recent high school graduates were enrolled in college. For 2009 graduates, the college enrollment rate was 73.8 percent for young women and 66.0 percent for young men. The college enrollment rate of 2009 Asian graduates (92.2 percent) was higher than for recent white (69.2 percent), black (68.7 percent), and Hispanic (59.3 percent) graduates.
The labor force participation rate (the proportion of the population working or looking for work) for recent high school graduates enrolled in college was 42.1 percent. The participation rates for male and female graduates enrolled in college were about the same (40.8 percent and 43.2 percent, respectively).
Among recent high school graduates enrolled in college in October 2009, 91.6 percent were full-time students. Recent graduates enrolled as full-time students were about half as likely to be in the labor force (38.7 percent) than their peers enrolled part time (79.3 percent).
About six in 10 recent high school graduates who were enrolled in college attended four-year institutions. Of these students, 30.9 percent participated in the labor force, compared with 59.2 percent of recent graduates enrolled in two-year colleges. Recent high school graduates not enrolled in college in the fall of 2009 were more likely than enrolled graduates to be in the labor force (70.0 compared with 42.1 percent). The unemployment rate for recent high school graduates not enrolled in school was 35.0 percent, compared with 23.7 percent for graduates enrolled in college.
Between October 2008 and October 2009, 383,000 young people dropped out of high school. The labor force participation rate for recent dropouts (48.5 percent) was lower than for recent high school graduates not enrolled in college (70.0 percent). The jobless rate for recent high school dropouts was 55.1 percent, compared with 35.0 percent for high school graduates not enrolled in college.
All Youth Enrolled in High School or College
In October 2009, 58.1 percent of the nation's 16- to 24-year-olds, or 21.9 million young people, either were enrolled in high school (9.6 million) or in college (12.2 million). The labor force participation rate of youth enrolled in school fell from 42.0 to 38.5 percent from October 2008 to October 2009, and the unemployment rate rose from 11.9 to 15.6 percent.
In October 2009, college students continued to be more likely to participate in the labor force than high school students (51.4 compared with 22.1 percent). About 87 percent of college students were enrolled full time. Those attending full time had much lower labor force participation rates than part-time students. Female college students were more likely to be in the labor force (54.8 percent) than their male counterparts (47.4 percent).
The unemployment rate for high school students, at 25.8 percent in October 2009, was about twice the rate for college students (12.2 percent). Unemployment rates for black (46.9 percent) and Hispanic (40.4 percent) high school students continued to be higher than for white students (22.6 percent).
All Youth Not Enrolled in School
In October 2009, 15.8 million persons age 16 to 24 were not enrolled in school. The labor force participation rate of youth not enrolled in school fell from 79.9 percent in October 2008 to 78.4 percent in October 2009. Among youth not enrolled in school in October 2009, men continued to be more likely than women to participate in the labor force – 83.8 compared with 72.3 percent. Labor force participation rates for not-enrolled men and women were highest for college graduates and lowest for those with less than a high school diploma.
The unemployment rate for not-enrolled youth age 16 to 24 rose from 14.2 percent in October 2008 to 20.3 percent in October 2009. Among the educational attainment categories, unemployment rates for youth not in school were highest for those without a high school diploma – 31.8 percent for young men and 31.0 percent for young women in October 2009. In contrast, the jobless rates for young male and female college graduates were 13.6 and 6.5 percent, respectively. Black youth not enrolled in school had an unemployment rate of 33.0 percent in October 2009, higher than the rates for their white (17.9 percent), Asian (20.0 percent) and Hispanic (23.1 percent) counterparts.