Florida Senator Marco Rubio recently said, “Not everyone has to go to a four-year liberal arts college.”

It looks like he has a big influence with young Americans, as Neil Shah of the Wall Street Journal reports that more high schoolers are seeking work instead of a college education after graduation (hat-tip Instapundit).

“The recession convinced many young American high-school graduates to take refuge in college instead of try their luck in a lousy job market. New research indicates that trend may be unwinding.

The college enrollment rate — the share of recent U.S. high-school graduates enrolling in college or a university in the same year — dropped in 2012 to 66.2%, the lowest level since 2006, the Labor Department said in a report on Wednesday. For 2012 graduates, the rate dropped for both men and women, to 61.3% from 64.6% in 2011, and 71.3% from 72.3%, respectively.

The findings suggest some high-school graduates are becoming more confident about their job prospects after years of hiding out by going to college. When the economy sank into recession between 2007 and 2009, the college enrollment rate rose steadily to a record high of 70.1%. The implosion of America’s construction industry, for example, meant fewer jobs for young men looking for work right out of high school. Now it appears some of these young graduates are going on the job market again.

Of course, finding a job isn’t that much easier. America’s job-market recovery remains uneven: The unemployment rate is still unusually high at 7.6%, and the economy added only 88,000 jobs last month — the weakest job gains since June 2012.

The unusually high number of high-school graduates going to school instead of looking for work has also kept the nation’s overall unemployment rate artificially low, since going to school takes you out of the labor force. If more freshly-minted grads now look for jobs and enter the work force, that will push unemployment higher.

There were other gloomy signals in the government’s latest report. The share of recent black American high-school graduates enrolling in college dropped precipitously to 58.2% from 67.5% in October 2011 — a much bigger drop than for whites, Asians and Hispanics. Last October—when the Labor Department gathered its data — the unemployment rate for high-school grads who didn’t enroll in school was 34.4%, up from 33.6% a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for people age 16 to 24 without a high school diploma was 28.8% for men — a big jump from 19.7% a year earlier. The “labor-force participation rate” for all Americans who dropped out of high school last year — those who were working or looking for work — tumbled to 47.2% from 55.5%, a sign that those without even high-school diplomas are struggling to find their way.