How Bad Is the Job Market for the College Class of 2014?

A blog about business and economics.
May 8 2014 4:18 PM

How Bad Is the Job Market for the College Class of 2014?

74112246MT003_Students_Atte
Have a drink. It's the last you'll be able to afford.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

College graduation season is approaching fast, which means we’re also heading for the annual round of horror stories about the job market for young B.A.s. At least, I expect we are, because said market is still a mess.

You can spend a long, long time arguing about precisely how bad freshly minted grads have it these days and why. But for now, let's stick to broad strokes. In its recent chartbook on youth joblessness, the Economic Policy Institute reported that roughly 8.5 percent of college graduates between the ages of 21 and 24 were unemployed. That figure is based on a 12-month average between April 2013 and March 2014, so it’s not a perfect snapshot of the here and now. Still, it tells us that the post-collegiate job market, just like the rest of the labor market, certainly isn’t nearly back to normal. (For comparison, the unemployment rate for all college grads over the age of 25 is 3.3 percent, which is also still higher than normal.) More worrisomely, the EPI finds that a total of 16.8 percent of new grads are “underemployed,” meaning they’re either jobless and hunting for work; working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job; or want a job, have looked within the past year, but have now given up on searching.

Advertisement

Then there’s the other kind of underemployment—the kind where you're just too educated for your job. For decades now, we’ve been used to hearing about recent college graduates reduced to pouring coffee or working as bike messengers to pay off student loan debt. In a January report, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that roughly 44 percent of recent graduates—meaning those ages 22 to 27 with a B.A. or higher—were in a job that did not technically demand a bachelor’s degree. That, oddly, was good news: Even in very strong job markets, significant chunks of young grads typically take a while to move on to a career path that matches their education—the situation in 2012 was about on par with the early 1990s.

The bad news is that these recent B.A.s, working in jobs that don't require a college degree, are in occupations that pay far less than in the past. It used to be that more than half of these overeducated young workers would find themselves in “good” jobs—meaning that they'd pay at least $45,000 in today's market. Today, less than 40 percent do. Meanwhile, more than a fifth of this group were in low-wage jobs, meaning they paid $25,000 a year or less.

So to sum it up: Today’s crop of new B.A.s are staring at roughly 8.5 percent unemployment, 16.8 percent underemployment. Close to half of those who land work won’t immediately find a job that requires their degree, and for those stuck in that situation, there are fewer “good” jobs to go around. Welcome to adulthood, class of 2014.

Jordan Weissmann is Slate's senior business and economics correspondent.

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company

Science

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 18 2014 10:42 AM Scalia’s Liberal Streak The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 18 2014 11:25 AM Gays on TV: From National Freakout to Modern Family Fun
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 12:03 PM The NFL Opines on “the Role of the Female”
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 11:48 AM Watch the Hilarious First Sketch From Season 4 of Key & Peele
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 10:07 AM “The Day It All Ended” A short story from Hieroglyph, a new science fiction anthology.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.