One In Two College Graduates Are Jobless Or Underemployed

One half of young college graduates are either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge.

Recipients of bachelor’s degrees are increasingly having to take lower-wage jobs such as waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, while having to deal with higher tuition and mounting student loan debt.

Median wages for those with bachelor’s degrees are down from 2000, partly due to technological changes that are eliminating mid-level jobs such as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions.

When taking underemployment into consideration, the job prospects for bachelor’s degree holders are at the lowest level in over a decade.

“You can make more money on average if you go to college, but it’s not true for everybody,” says Harvard economist Richard Freeman, noting the growing risk of a debt bubble with total U.S. student loan debt surpassing $1 trillion. “If you’re not sure what you’re going to be doing, it probably bodes well to take some job, if you can get one, and get a sense first of what you want from college.”

Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University said many people with a degree face rising tuition and a poor job market.

“Simply put, we’re failing kids coming out of college,” he said “We’re going to need a lot better job growth and connections to the labor market, otherwise college debt will grow.”

According to government projections released last month, only three occupations,  teachers, college professors and accountants, of the 30 with the largest projected number of job openings by 2020 will require a bachelor’s degree or higher. Most job openings are in professions such as retail sales, fast food and truck driving, jobs which aren’t easily replaced by computers.

Job gains are going mostly to workers at the top and bottom of the wage scale, at the expense of middle-income jobs commonly held by bachelor’s degree holders. Some studies have found that up to 95 percent of positions lost during the economic recovery occurred in middle-income occupations.

Longer-term government projections also may fail to consider “degree inflation,” in which bachelor’s degrees become more commonplace in lower-wage jobs but inadequate for higher-wage ones.

 

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