Employment Rates for University Graduates

Laura Tucker

更新日期 January 16, 2020 更新日期 January 16

While the economic downturn has led to higher unemployment rates across the US, a new report shows that university graduates do have an advantage.

“When it rains hard enough and long enough, everyone gets a little wet.” So says the opening line of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce’s (CEW) latest report, ‘The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm’.

However, the report’s authors, Anthony P. Carnevale, Tamara Jayasundera and Ban Cheah, are not talking about the weather, they’re talking about unemployment.

What difference does a degree make?

Recent statistics have revealed that the financial troubles experienced since the beginnings of the ‘Great Recession’ in 2007 have resulted in an overall unemployment rate for graduates in the US of 4.5%.

A closer look at the statistics reveal the figure for recent graduates is higher, standing at 6.8%. Sounds pretty disheartening, doesn’t it? Why go to university if you can’t even get a job out of it?

Well, here’s why: the unemployment rate for those with only a high school qualification is 9.4%. And for recent high school graduates it’s a whopping 24%!

This has been the way throughout the recession. The highest unemployment level for recent university graduates was 11.1%, which occurred in July 2011. It’s a scary figure, but the equivalent for those with only a pre-university qualification was 30%, occurring in January 2010.

Similar patterns can be seen in the case of underemployment (those who are employed on a part-time basis who want or need to work full-time, or those who are employed in fields for which they are overqualified).

Job gains and losses

The report identifies a period of recovery, beginning at the start of 2010, since when jobs have been created in the US.

However, the jobs that have been created have been those which require a tertiary level qualification. Of the 1.8 million jobs lost by those with at least an associate’s degree (two years of university), 1.6 million have been regained.

On the other hand, four out of every five jobs that has been destroyed were those which required only a high school level qualification.

So those with degrees have been hit less hard. This is even the case in fields of employment where degrees are not traditionally required. In manufacturing, employment fell 19% for those with only a high school education, but only 9% for those with one; in construction the equivalent figures are 24% and 4%.

In every field except public administration, the study reveals, demand for those with bachelor’s degrees is greater than those without. And with graduates continuing to earn more and more than non-graduates, as the CEW has discussed before (it has also produced a guide to how much graduates can expect to earn according to discipline), there is still clearly a demand that is greater than the supply!

Gender differences

The recession has affected men and women to different extents. Men with bachelor’s degrees lost 200,000 jobs. However, this was offset by the job gains made by women, who “more than made up for those losses”, according to the report. Men with only high school qualifications were also hit harder, losing 3.6 million jobs, compared to the 2 million lost by women.

The reason for this, the report concludes, is the long-term decline in traditionally male dominated blue collar industries such as construction and manufacturing.

These industries were artificially swelled by the construction boom which occurred before the recession began, but were then hardest hit by the recession. It is estimated that 5.2 million of the 7.2 million jobs lost have been in these industries, with wholesale and retail accounting for another 1 million.

Men have traditionally lagged behind women in the US in terms of university education. However, the proportion of men going to university has risen faster than that of women since the beginning of the recession, so it seems that this particular gap will close in the future.

Still worth it

This report only applies to the US, but it seems fair to say that the findings will be reflected in many others regions in the world which are experiencing similar issues.

Graduate unemployment figures often make the front pages, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t a stand-alone problem, but, well, people getting wet from the heavy rain.

Compared to the equivalent statistics for those with only a high school education, graduate unemployment figures are much stronger – and when the economy recovers, it will be in the graduate sector that gains are made.

In terms of employment, then, it seems that going to university is still worth it!

本文首发于 2012 October , 更新于 2020 January 。


Laura is a former staff writer for TopUniversities.com, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.

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