We’ve written multiple times how important it is to pick your major wisely, but what’s even more important is getting a college degree to begin with. At least, that’s what the latest study from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce says.
According the study, called Weathering the Economic Storm, the unemployment rate for people with a college degree has been pretty high, but not nearly as high as the unemployment rate for folks without a BA or a BS.
The unemployment rate for all four-year college graduates is 4.5 percent, but the unemployment rate for recent four-year college graduates is more than 50 percent higher at 6.8 percent. At the same time, unemployment rates for recent high school graduates are near 24 percent.
The study says even during the worst parts of the recession, the unemployment rate for college graduates never went higher than 6.3 percent. For high school graduates, the current unemployment rate is 9.4 percent, but in February of 2010 is reached 13.4 percent.
And, although recent graduates always have a tougher time finding a job other than as a barista, they still fare much better than recent high school graduates.
Unemployment rates for new four-year college graduates peaked at 11.1 percent in July 2011 before declining to 6.8 percent in May 2012. Meanwhile, unemployment rates for new high school graduates peaked at 30 percent in January 2010 and are still at 24 percent in May 2012.
“At a time when more and more people are debating the value of postsecondary education, this data shows that your chances of being unemployed increase dramatically without a college degree.”
–Anthony Carnevale, Director of the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce
Of course none of this means that getting an undergraduate degree will protect you from the economic recession or guarantee you a job.
“When it rains hard enough and long enough, everyone gets a little wet,” reads the report’s summary. “Economic storms are like that, too. In the Great Recession that began in December 2007, even college graduates lost jobs or ended up in jobs beneath their skill levels.”
And underemployment remains a pervasive problem for college graduates. According to the report, 8.4 percent of newly minted degree holders are underemployed. But, the report also found that 17.3 percent of recent high school graduates are underemployed.
Even in blue-collar areas, the report found that people with higher levels of education fared better.
The study found that many of those men who traditionally went into blue-collar fields like manufacturing and construction are now picking up college text books instead. As the report put it, the “Great Recession has produced an economic reckoning for men who stopped their education at high school or before.”
For example, in manufacturing, employment dropped 15 percent for people with high school diplomas and only one percent for those with bachelor’s degrees or better. In construction, employment dropped 25 percent for those with high school diplomas and only two percent for workers with a bachelor’s degree or better.
Prior to the recession, women outnumbered men on college campuses, but men were particularly hard hit in this recession. However; the report says men have also led the economic recovery, adding some 2.3 million college jobs.
In a statement, Anthony Carnevale, the report’s co-author said, “at a time when more and more people are debating the value of postsecondary education, this data shows that your chances of being unemployed increase dramatically without a college degree.”