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If you were hard-pressed to find a hint of anything positive in the February unemployment report that came out Friday, here's one: The unemployment rate for people with at least a four-year degree is 4.1%. Sure, that's about double what it was a year ago and, like the overall unemployment rate, it doesn't count people who are underemployed, working temporary gigs or who have just given up looking for work altogether. But it's still significantly below the overall unemployment rate of 8.1% and it means at least one truism about investing remains, well, true: Getting a college education is one investment that can still pay off.

Here's how education level and unemployment line in the latest unemployment report:

Unemployment rates in February 2009 by educational level:

  • Less than a high school diploma 12.6%
  • High School graduate 8.3%
  • Some college or associate degree 7.0%
  • Bachelor's degree or higher 4.1%

This recession is deep and widespread. It's affecting blue collar and white collar workers and few industries have been spared (though the other glimmer of good news in February's unemployment report was that the jobs continued to be added in healthcare, education and the federal government). But for those who wonder if there's anything they or their children can do about job security, the numbers above show that education plays a critical in your employment status.

As these stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows, there are, of course, other factors that affect your employment, including your occupation and geographic location. And earning a bachelor's degree doesn't guarantee you'll make a lot of money. But it does improve the odds that even in the worst of economic times, you'll have a job. - Donna Rosato