Degrees Of Unemployment

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 8 2013 @ 4:00pm

Jodan Weissmann parses the varied views on what a college degree is worth right now:

It’s safe to assume that the recent BLS figures have brightened up a bit over the course of our slow but steady jobs recovery. Yet any way you slice it, there are far more jobless college grads around than the United States is used to seeing. In the end, most sophisticated college critics aren’t that worried about unemployment, though. Rather, they’re worried about underemployment. There’s a very loud chorus who believe that droves desperate BA’s are strapping on barista aprons and answering phones as temps just to make ends meet, rather than starting stable professional careers. In the process, goes the argument, they’re tragically pushing high school grads who would ordinarily fill those jobs even further down the economic food chain.

The problem isn’t imaginary. A few days back, the Wall Street Journal’s Ben Casselman reported that 284,000 Americans with a BA or higher were working in jobs that paid minimum wage or less, about double the pre-recession total (as shown in the the paper’s graph above). According to the BLS, the vast majority of those workers were actually in sub-minimum-wage jobs, meaning they were probably working for tips. The number of over-educated waiters and waitresses out there, in other words, has blown up quite a bit.

Matt Brueing underscores how much worse it is for those without a degree:

To my delight, Catherine Ruetschlin and Tamara Draut released a new Demos report yesterday about the job crisis afflicting young Americans, with a specific emphasis on the majority of youth who have no college degree. And those numbers are brutal. People between the ages of 18-24 without a high school degree face an unemployment rate of 27.4% and an underemployment rate of 41.7%. Those in the same age group with only high school degrees face an unemployment rate of 19.7% and an underemployment rate of 34.6%.

In the 25-34 age group, the numbers are somewhat better, but still bad. Those between the ages of 25-34 without a high school degree have an unemployment rate of 15.4% and an underemployment rate of 29.2%. Those with only high school degrees have an unemployment rate of 11.2% and an underemployment rate of 19.9%. In short, it’s terrible to be young in this job market, and really terrible to be in it without a degree.