Most new graduates are faring better in the job market—but not all

Students in occupation-specific majors tend to have the highest rates of employment

The job market has improved significantly since the Great Recession for recent graduates, with lower unemployment rates and higher wages for many young people in the workforce, Tara Siegel Bernard reports for the New York Times

The best jobs for recent grads

Employers are looking to hire 15% more recent graduates at all education levels than they did last year, according to Michigan State University's Collegiate Employment Research Institute. However, students' majors play a significant role in their hiring outcomes.

According to an analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, recent graduates who majored in civil engineering and nursing had some of the lowest unemployment rates, at 2.8% and 2%, respectively. In comparison, anthropology, geography, and mass media majors experienced jobless rates upward of 8%, while liberal arts majors' unemployment rates held at 5.8%.

"The occupation-specific majors tend to do much better," says Jaison Abel, the New York Fed's head of regional analysis. Abel conducted the analysis along with Richard Deitz, senior economist at the Fed. "Even within business, the more specific majors—accounting or finance—tend to do much better than those with a general major."

The share of recent graduates ages 22 to 27 with at least a bachelor's degree working in jobs that do not require degrees reached 44% by the end of September, a rate considered high by historical standards. While that figure may seem concerning, the economists note that in both good and bad economic times, about one-third of all graduates hold jobs that do not require a bachelor's degree. And even during the roughest periods of the Great Recession, students held higher-paying positions in fields such as administrative support.

Abel says the data represent "fairly typical trends of transitioning from college to the job market," with young people gradually transitioning from low-skilled service jobs to better careers.

The underemployment rate has also decreased for 22- to 27-year-old graduates, from the decade's peak at 23.4% in 2013 to 19.8% in 2015, according to Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.

Median wages have increased for recent graduates with only a bachelor's degree as well, from $40,000 in 2014 to $43,000 in 2015, according to the New York Fed report (Bernard, New York Times, 4/8). 

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