8 Jun

Map of the Week: Graduation vs. Unemployment Rates

Created by Connor Mayes using ESRI ArcGIS Online with data obtained by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Department of Education


Many colleges and universities have their commencement ceremonies in June and release their new graduates out into the working world.  However, there sometimes aren’t any jobs waiting for these grads. Some graduates are highly skilled in one specific field and find work quickly, whereas others graduate with a well-rounded degree, but no clear career direction. On the other hand, these specialized graduates are often competing for a coveted position, whereas others have more freedom to choose should a particular field offer few opportunities. As hard as all graduates try, there sometimes isn’t any work to be found. With this reality in mind, is there any correlation between a state’s graduation and unemployment rates?

Click here or on the image above to use an interactive map to explore this topic. Use the vertical slider to scroll over all 50 states and view both their graduation and unemployment rates. To the right of the bar, shown in red, is a state’s unemployment rate, with darker colors signaling higher unemployment. On the left-hand side of the slider bar is a state’s college graduation rate. This rate is derived from students graduating within 4 years from both private and public 4-year institutions.

This side-by-side comparison yields some interesting results. Maine and Colorado, for instance, display high graduation rates alongside low unemployment. It’s difficult to draw any concrete conclusions from these data, as there are some states with high graduation and high unemployment, and vice versa. However, there does seem to be a positive association between graduation and employment prospects. According to both this map and a report by the National Center for Educational Statistics, the better educated one is, the more likely they are to find employment. This does not imply anything regarding the degree held or the position found, but rather the fact that no matter what, it is better to be educated.