Chart: The Job Outlook for Young Graduates
Here we take a look at data derived from the findings a major breakdown of recent economic data by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in a report titled “The Class of 2015.” While the report breaks down the recent economic results and outlook of today’s young adults in various ways today we’ll look at one key piece of information on every graduate’s mind: the broad employment picture in America for young adults.
As it currently stands, unemployment plagues about 7.2% of today’s college graduates aged 21-24, with an additional 14.9% of the same reporting underemployment. Note that this particular report defines underemployment as wanting to work full-time hours but only finding part time work. If we look to a broader definition of underemployment, that being having a college degree but working in a job that only requires a high school diploma, we discover that a full 46% of young college graduates are thus underemployed in lower level jobs.
If we generously allow for argument’s sake all of the graduates behind the data fit both underemployment definitions (employed part time AND in a lower level job), these reports would still indicate that just more than half of all college graduates aged 21-24 are either unemployed or underemployed.
That being said, this picture is still better than that of the young adult who hadn’t graduated college. They face the specter of 37% unemployment and 19.5% underemployment.
We have certainly entered that strange era, as commentator Robert Reich not-so-popularly pointed out, wherein “a college degree no longer guarantees a good job. The main reason it pays better than the job of someone without a degree is the latter’s wages are dropping.” In other words college graduates don’t have it good, but it could be worse. We increasingly realize that the value of a college may not lie in getting you a better job, but a job at all. And we can’t even expect that anymore, at least not in a timely manner.
This is important to make oneself aware of in that most I talk to don’t seek an education for education’s sake but to get a career underway. Similarly, the reason I see kids/families extend themselves beyond their means for college is the promise of economic reward at the end of the trip. For far too many this is but a false promise. In the market unjustified expectations inevitably lead to overspending and misappropriation (this is why every marketer wants you to expect their product does more than it actually does, such as thinking a cereal not only fills your belly but makes you an Olympic contender).
We must keep all of this in mind as we seek affordable outcomes. As it is, all too many have set themselves up for disappointment, even devastation. If we scale back our expectations of what a degree will more likely do for us we will approach the situation more circumspectly and be less likely to overpay.