Unemployed College Graduates As Vulnerable As High School Dropouts To Long-Term Unemployment: Report

If You Lose Your Job, A College Degree May Not Protect You

College graduates and advanced degree holders, once they are unemployed, are as vulnerable as high school dropouts to long-term joblessness, a new study has found.

Thirty five percent of unemployed college graduates and those with advanced degrees have been without a job for more than a year, the same rate as unemployed high school dropouts, according to a Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative study published Wednesday. In fact, the long-term unemployment rate, for those 25 and older without a job, is nearly the same across all levels of educational attainment, the report says.

"A slowly rising number of job vacancies...hurts people regardless of their educational attainment," said Gary Burtless, labor economist at the liberal think tank Brookings Institution. Nonetheless, he added: "Relatively speaking, there's still a payoff to going to college. The college degree still has some vaccination effects against becoming a long-term unemployed person."

Indeed, getting a college degree is a good bet for avoiding unemployment in the first place. The unemployment rate of college graduates who are at least 25 years old is just 4.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In contrast, 13.8 percent of high school dropouts, 8.7 percent of high school graduates, and 7.7 percent of college dropouts are unemployed.

The percentage of the labor force that faces long-term unemployment is at a record high of 2.8 percent, according to the Pew report. Thirteen million Americans are unemployed, 4 million (or 31 percent) of whom have been unemployed for more than a year.

Republicans and Democrats have clashed frequently over federal unemployment insurance ever since the unemployed first became eligible for 99 weeks of benefits at the end of 2009.

Once Americans are out of work for more than a year, they face a slew of challenges. Even in the most generous states, unemployment insurance benefits do not last longer than 99 weeks. When the long-term unemployed lose government benefits, the anxiety can be crushing.

The long-term unemployed also often face job discrimination, as many employers prefer to hire workers with fresh experience. A number of employers require job applicants to be "currently employed" in order to be considered for a position.

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