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For Recent Grads, Recessions Equal Underemployment

01/08/2014

Inside Higher Ed.  Jan 7, 2014.  

Finding a good job after graduation has indeed become more difficult since the recession – the recession of 2001, that is. A new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Current Issues found that the trend of recent graduates working in jobs that do not require a degree began with the 2001 recession, and recent graduates are increasingly working in low-wage or part-time jobs.

Unemployment has peaked three times in the last 24 years, the report says: Following the 1990-91 recession (about 4.5 percent unemployment in 1992), the 2001 recession (about 5 percent in 2002), and the 2008 recession (7 percent in 2011). Recent graduates fared worse during those times than college graduates as a whole.

Underemployment, or working in a job that doesn't require a bachelor's degree, among recent graduates on average also peaked at around 45 percent in 1992, 2004 and 2012.

The report also notes that from 2009-11, students in some fields fared far worse than others. Unemployment in most fields hovered around 6 or 7 percent, but there was much more variation in underemployment. While 8 percent of recent liberal arts graduates were unemployed, another 52 percent didn’t need a degree for the job they held. Although their unemployment rates were lower, at 4 percent, leisure and hospitality graduates were most likely to be underemployed (63 percent). At the other end of the scale was engineering, where 5 percent were unemployed and 20 percent were underemployed.