Many Recent College Graduates Have Found Employment

Yale College seniors wave and cheer as Yale University officials announced that they were officially graduated during commenc
Yale College seniors wave and cheer as Yale University officials announced that they were officially graduated during commencement ceremonies on the Yale University campus in New Haven, Conn., Monday, May 28, 2007. Over 1.330 Yale college seniors were awarded their degrees at the ceremony. (AP Photo/Bob Child)

NEW YORK -- College graduates who entered the labor market during the Great Recession in 2008 are doing fine finding employment, a government study released Tuesday shows.

Four years out of college, 85 percent of graduates had one full-time job, 8 percent had multiple jobs, and 6.7 percent were unemployed and looking for work, according to the study by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. Among those with a full-time job, the average salary was $52,200.

The study, titled "First Look at the Employment Experiences and Lives of College Graduates, 4 Years On," surveyed 17,000 people who graduated in the 2007-08 academic year.

The new research bolsters other studies that show higher education frequently pays off for graduates, and challenges headlines claiming that about half of recent grads haven't found work.

Graduates on average were unemployed and looking for work just 6 percent of the time from their graduation in 2007-08 through 2012, when they were surveyed, according to the study. About half of the survey participants were single and had no children, while 20 percent were married with no kids, and 19.6 percent were married and had dependent children.

The claim that one out of every two recent college graduates under age 25 was out of work originated with an April 2012 Associated Press report that cited researchers at Northeastern University, Drexel University and the Economic Policy Institute, based on Census Bureau and Labor Department data. The article became a talking point against President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election.

Data from those same sources -- the Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics -- show that recent college graduates have always had an unemployment rate about 2 percentage points higher than for all college grads, other researchers have concluded. They say young workers have a higher unemployment rate than workers of all ages.

"While stories about recent college graduates' struggles to find a good job have become increasingly common over the past few years ... this experience is not a new phenomenon, nor one that can be ascribed simply to the Great Recession and the ensuing weakness in the labor market, " wrote Jaison R. Abel, Richard Deitz, and Yaqin Su in an analysis this year for the New York Federal Reserve.

Four of every five participants in the National Center for Education Statistics survey graduated in fields outside science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- the so-called STEM fields. No major reported double-digit unemployment numbers. Graduates who majored in engineering had a 4.3 percent unemployment rate, while health care majors had a rate of 2.2 percent. The highest unemployment rate was 9.6 percent, for those with social science degrees.

Black and Asian graduates had unemployment rates of 11.8 percent and 11.9 percent, respectively. Graduates of for-profit colleges posted an 11.9 percent unemployment rate.

Graduates who never enrolled in post-secondary degree education programs had held two jobs on average in the four years since graduating college.

The new study doesn't show whether graduates were employed in a field related to their studies. Nor does it explore how student loan debt affects graduates' wealth or earning potential, or whether graduates seek extra financial support from family members.

According government figures from June, unemployment for people ages 18 to 29 of all educational backgrounds was 10.5 percent, up from 9.1 percent in April.