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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

Updated 2 hours ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

American officials and authorities in Haiti are working to try and free 17 hostages from a U.S.-based missionary group who were kidnapped in Port-au-Prince over the weekend, AP reported Monday.

The latest: Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement Sunday, "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children." The Ohio-based organization said they were on a trip to visit an orphanage when they were kidnapped Saturday.

China's economic growth slows

A worker assembles heavy truck engines in Hangzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang Province, on Monday. Photo: Long We/Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

China's economy grew 4.9% in the third quarter of 2021 compared with a year earlier, the country's National Bureau of Statistics announced Monday.

Why it matters: The gross domestic product growth in the July-September period in the world’s second-largest economy marked the "weakest pace since the third quarter of 2020 and slowing from 7.9% in the second quarter," Reuters notes.

5 hours ago - World

Former spy Steele defends controversial Trump Russia dossier

Former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele arrives at the High Court in London in July 2020. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

The author of the "Steele Dossier," containing unverified claims about former President Trump told ABC News he stands by his controversial report, according to excerpts from an upcoming documentary released Sunday.

Why it matters: The FBI drew on former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele's dossier as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged links to Russia's government, which led to former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.