Recent correspondence with Arthur McKee at the National Council on Teacher Quality brought up an interesting question: What happened to teacher unemployment in the Great Recession? I don’t think anyone has a for-sure answer, but I’ve cobbled together a bit of information.
First fact (from the Digest of Education Statistics): In the 2007-2008 school year (before the Great Recession) there were 3,405,000 public school teachers. In 2011-2012, after the end of the recession, the number had fallen to 3,385,000. That’s a drop of about half a percent.
Second fact, well factoid anyhow: I’ve put together a graph based on the American Community Survey of the fraction of teachers who report being unemployed or out of the labor force versus the same fraction for other college-educated workers. For reasons discussed below, take the graph with a grain of salt. What seems to have happened is that fewer teachers were out of work when the recession first hit, compared to other occupations. (The vertical line marks 2009.) Then a year or two later teachers continued to lose jobs while the market for other workers started to recover. That accords with my sense of what was going on with state budgets around then.
Now for a few caveats. This was a quick and dirty analysis, so there might be some gotchyas that I missed. You have to wonder about what exactly it means when someone both gives their profession and says they are “out of the labor force.” Moreover, the data source includes “unemployed” as once choice for occupation, which is coded separately from whether the interviewee says he’s unemployed or not. I excluded the “unemployed occupation” from the analysis since there’s no way of knowing whether the respondent’s regular occupation was teaching or something else. (Real world data is never straightforward.)
By the way, the data is from that great source of micro data on people, usa.ipums.org. The official citation is