The unemployment rate for young college graduates exceeds that of the general population, and about 41 percent of recent college graduates -- and 33.8 percent of all college graduates -- are underemployed in that they are working in jobs that don't require a college degree, according to new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
The December 2019 unemployment rate for individuals aged 22 to 27 with a bachelor’s degree or higher was, at 3.9 percent, slightly higher than the 3.6 percent unemployment rate for all workers between the ages of 16 and 65. However, it was lower than the 6.5 percent unemployment rate for 22- to 27-year-olds without a four-year degree. The unemployment rate for all college graduates up to age 65 was 2.2 percent.
"It's maybe a little bit counterintuitive, but it’s not particularly surprising and the numbers have been pretty consistent for years," said David Soo, the chief of staff at Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit organization focused on aligning educational and workforce needs to promote access to economic advancement. "It's just that young people coming out of school often need a couple of years to get a foothold in the labor market, and then you start to see their unemployment and underemployment numbers come down. An investment in college is still the best one out there."
The New York Federal Reserve data also highlight varying unemployment and underemployment outcomes for recent college graduates by major, as summarized in this chart. Recent graduates of programs in education, engineering and nursing have among the lowest unemployment and underemployment rates, while rates are much higher for recent graduates in many fields in the liberal arts and sciences and some professionally oriented fields. The field whose recent graduates have the highest rate of unemployment is mass media (7.8 percent), while the field whose recent graduates have the highest rate of underemployment is criminal justice (73.2 percent).