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The unemployment gap between skilled and unskilled workers has been shrinking.

Expand chart
Data: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Overall unemployment rose to 3.9% in December as more would-be workers — including those with less education — entered the workforce.

  • The unemployment rate for those 25 and older without a high school diploma is holding near historic lows, while unemployment hit 3.8% in December for those with a high school diploma — higher than November, but still close to the lowest rate we've seen in decades.

What to watch: The recovery is consistently helping less-educated workers find jobs, but cracks are beginning to show in industries like manufacturing, which are likely to hire them. Per the latest reading of the ISM manufacturing index, manufacturing activity slowed to a two-year low, thanks to softening demand.

In November, unemployment dropped for those without a high school diploma and high school dropouts, and it edged higher for people who were more educated.

What's going on: Job growth has been faster in low wage industries and slower in high wage industries, giving a boost to less skilled workers, William Spriggs, AFL-CIO's chief economist, points out.

  • The tightest labor market since 1969 is forcing companies to consider workers they may have overlooked when the unemployed pool provided more options. The forgotten job seekers — with lower levels of education — are benefiting from companies' hunger for labor, as Axios Future Editor Steve LeVine notes.
  • Walt Disney and Yum Brands, for instance, are offering upfront college tuition for their less-educated employees, "reversing the norm that requires workers to get the degree before launching a career," the Wall Street Journal reports.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

McConnell: Trump "provoked" Capitol mob

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

Why it matters: Trump was impeached by the House last week for "incitement of insurrection." McConnell has not said how he will vote in Trump's coming Senate impeachment trial, but sources told Axios' Mike Allen that the chances of him voting to convict are higher than 50%.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July. Photo by Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Congressional leaders, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will skip President Trump's departure ceremony in Maryland tomorrow morning in favor of attending mass with incoming President Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration, congressional sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Their decision is a clear sign of unity before Biden takes the oath of office.