Recent College Grads Job Struggles Put in Historical Context

The news is replete with reports about the dismal plight of recent college graduates looking for work. But a recent report by the Federal Bank of New York puts the data in historical context and shows that despite the Great Recession, recent college grads are actually ahead of young workers without a college degree and all workers in general.

According to the report, recent college grads have indeed had a harder time landing jobs than college graduates overall. The average unemployment rate for recent college graduates from 1990 to 2013 is 4.3%; for all college graduates, the rate is 2.9%. But that still beats the high rates for young workers without a degree and all workers on the whole.

What is new, however, is that morecent-college-grads-graphre recent college graduates are now underemployed, or working in jobs that do not require a college degree.

And that group is experiencing poor prospects. In the 1990s, approximately half of underemployed recent grads were in “good” jobs, defined in the report as jobs in occupations such as electricians and dental hygienists, which do not require a degree but that are career oriented and well compensated. By 2009, the percentage of those jobs fell by 36%.

The report found that unemployment rates for recent college graduates—defined as those with a bachelor’s degree and between 22 and 27 years old—peaked at around 7% in 2010. That figure reflects graduates working in any job, no matter how low paying.

Unemployment rates for recent grads varied by major, with the highest rates occurring in architecture, construction, the liberal arts, and social sciences. The lowest rates of unemployment were found among those entering the health and education fields.

The study’s authors reported that unemployment and underemployment among recent college graduates is not uncommon in both good and bad economic times, and that by the time the new workers reach their late 20s, they tend to find jobs that use their educations.

Download a .pdf of the report here.

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