1. The unemployment rate for workers with a college degree fell to 4.1% in December, which is the lowest jobless rate for that group since January 2009, almost three years ago. The number of employed college graduates is at an all-time high of 45.2 million, and more than 1.6 million above the December 2007 level when the recession started. In contrast, the jobless rate for workers with less than a high school degree jumped to 13.8% in December from 13.3% in November, and the employment level for those workers remains 1.24 million jobs below the December 2007 level. This contrast suggests that educational level might be an important factor in the labor market improvements and the drop in the jobless rate to 8.5%, with college-educated workers being the group that is gaining jobs during the recovery, while the least educated workers are the group finding it hardest to find jobs.
2. The manufacturing sector added 225,000 jobs in 2011, following an increase of 109,000 factory jobs in 2010, bringing manufacturing employment to 11.79 million at year-end. That's the first time since 1996-1997 of two consecutive annual increases in employment by U.S. manufacturing companies, and the 225,000 job gain last year was the largest since a 304,000 increase in 1997. If manufacturing companies continue to add jobs at the current pace, it's likely that manufacturing employment by mid-2012 will exceed the 12 million mark for the first time since early 2009.
3. Government payrolls fell by 280,000 jobs in 2011, with most of the job losses taking place at the local (-181,000) and state level (-63,000), compared to a much smaller reduction in federal jobs (-36,000). The decline in government jobs in 2011 follows declines in 2010 (-223,000) and 2009 (-76,000), bringing the three-year loss of government jobs to 589,000, and lowering total government employment to the lowest level since June 2006.
The last time there were three consecutive years of government job losses was back in 1945-1947 following WWII, and the only comparable more recent example was a 300,000 government job loss in 1981 followed by a 92,000 job loss in 1982. But all of those government job losses were re-gained by late 1985, so it will be interesting to see if the current downsizing to a five and-a-half year low for government jobs remains in effect as the economy continues to recover. If some of the government jobs are not added back, the Great Recession might be responsible for a permanent reduction in the number of government jobs, or maybe that's just wishful thinking?