These days, there may be something more valuable to job seekers than a four-year college degree: a two-year college degree. Employment for Americans with an associate degree or some college has risen by 578,000 the past six months to 35.2 million, while payrolls for those with at least a bachelor's are up by just 314,000 to 46.5 million, Labor Department figures show.
The trend underlines that some of the midskill jobs that disappeared in the recession are coming back, and it may signal more lasting growth in such occupations. They include operators of computerized factory machines, heating and air conditioning repair people, X-ray technicians, medical records specialists and low- to midlevel managers.
In recent years, "The share of these jobs has not grown [sharply] relative to [those requiring a bachelor's]," says Anthony Carnevale, head of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. "But they may have begun to do that." By contrast, employment for people with a high school diploma or less has been stagnant since 2010, after plummeting in the downturn.