All Educated With Nowhere to Go: 1 in 2 College Graduates Jobless Or Underemployed

April 23, 2012  |  

At one point, young professionals were said to be the least affected by the down economy, as older workers were being pushed out in favor of cheap labor and forced to rely on diminished retirement savings to survive. The fact that the young labor force would have time to build up their 401ks was seen as their saving grace but you can’t put money up for retirement when you don’t have a job at all.

That’s the reality painted by a new analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press that has found about 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 were unemployed or severely underemployed last year. That number is the highest it’s been in at least 11 years.

“Simply put, we’re failing kids coming out of college,” said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University who analyzed the numbers. “We’re going to need a lot better job growth and connections to the labor market, otherwise college debt will grow.”

Professional prospects varied by industry and region. For instance, demand is strong in science, education, and health fields, but dwindling in the arts and humanities. Median wages are lower for those with bachelor’s degrees across the board when compared to 2000 data, and sadly most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides, who can provide personalized attention for the aging population.

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

The Mountain West was most likely to have young college graduates jobless or underemployed—about 3 out of 5. Grads in the rural southeast followed behind, while the Pacific region ranked high on the list as well. The south, particularly Texas, appears to be the place to be right now. The area was was most likely to have young college graduates in higher-skill jobs.

In more sobering news, American workers are also struggling to compete with educated foreign-born residents for jobs and degree inflation as more and more young people earn bachelor’s degrees, making them commonplace for low-wage jobs, but inadequate for higher-paying ones. Sigh.

What advice would you give a recent grad trying to make it as a young professional?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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