Human capital spillovers can explain the overly strong metropolitan area relationship between skills and unemployment. If skilled co-workers make your company more productive, then your company will have fewer layoffs. If skilled entrepreneurs find opportunity in stormy times, then their hiring may keep unemployment rates down.
Education does indeed matter. Dr Edward L. Glaeser has a blog post that empirically proves that what your parents told you often is not just an old wives tale but a fact. Education is indeed the best tool to fight tough times.
Just to be clear, statistical models can lead us to strong correlations using regression equations such as the one mentioned in the blog post. You can and will find contradictions to this pattern. That is one of the biggest challenges of human life, a statistical model that can bring hope to hundreds of thousands might indeed also ring the death bell for hundreds who fall on the tails of the model. Pure reason cannot answer the "what if" questions in those cases, you need something more than that.
p.s doc, this post is dedicated to you :-)