The image of a young newly minted college graduate working behind the counter of a hip coffee shop has become a hallmark of the plight of college graduates following the Great Recession. Indeed, although economic conditions steadily improved through the recovery, significant slack remained in the labor market, and many recent graduates were not finding jobs commensurate with their degrees. The underemployment rate for recent college graduates—that is, the share working in jobs that typically do not require a college degree—continued to climb for several years following the Great Recession, topping out at nearly 50 percent, a level not seen since the early 1990s.
In this paper, we take a closer look at the jobs held by underemployed college graduates in the early stages of their careers during this period. We show that relatively few recent graduates were working in low-skilled service jobs, and that many of the underemployed worked in fairly well paid non-college jobs requiring some degree of knowledge and skill.
We also find that the likelihood of being underemployed was lower for those with technically oriented and occupation-specific majors than it was for those with degrees in more general fields. Moreover, our analysis suggests that underemployment is a temporary phase for many recent college graduates as they transition to better jobs after spending some time in the labor market, particularly for those who start their careers in low-skilled service jobs.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Underemployment in the Early Careers of College Graduates Following the Great Recession