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Employment rates of college graduates

Question:
What information do you have on the employment rates of college graduates?

Response:

Focusing on 25- to 34-year-olds (referred to here as "young adults"), this Fast Fact examines recent trends in two distinct yet related measures of labor market conditions: the employment rate and the unemployment rate. The employment rate (also known as the employment to population ratio) is the number of persons in a given group who are employed as a percentage of the civilian population in that group. The unemployment rate is the percentage of persons in the civilian labor force (i.e., all civilians who are employed or seeking employment) who are not working and who made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the prior 4 weeks.

In 2017, the employment rate was higher for those with higher levels of educational attainment. For example, the employment rate was highest for young adults with a bachelor's or higher degree (86 percent). The employment rate for young adults with some college1 (80 percent) was higher than the rate for those who had completed high school2 (72 percent), which was, in turn, higher than the employment rate for those who had not completed high school (57 percent). The same pattern was observed among both young adult males and young adult females. For example, the employment rate for young adult females was highest for those with a bachelor's or higher degree (83 percent) and lowest for those who had not completed high school (42 percent).


Employment rates of 25- to 34-year-olds, by sex and educational attainment: 2017

The data in this figure is described in the surrounding text.

NOTE: Data are based on sample surveys of the noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities); this figure includes data only on the civilian population (excludes all military personnel). The employment rate, or employment to population ratio, is the number of persons in each group who are employed as a percentage of the civilian population in that group. "Some college, no bachelor's degree" includes persons with an associate's degree. "High school completion" includes equivalency credentials, such as the GED.


From December 2007 through June 2009, the U.S. economy experienced a recession.3 For young adults overall, the employment rate was lower in 2010 (73 percent), immediately after the recession, than in 2000 (82 percent), prior to the recession. The employment rate then increased from 2010 to 2017, to 78 percent, but this rate was still lower than the rate in 2000. During these years, the same patterns in employment rates were observed for young adults with a bachelor's or higher degree, for those with some college, and for those who had completed high school. However, for young adults who had not completed high school, the employment rate in 2017 (57 percent) was not measurably different from the rate in 2010 but was lower than the rate in 2000 (64 percent).


1 In this Fast Fact, "some college" includes those with an associate's degree and those who have attended college but have not obtained a bachelor's degree.

2 Includes equivalency credentials, such as the GED.

3 National Bureau of Economic Research. (2010). U.S. Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from http://www.nber.org/cycles.html.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). The Condition of Education 2018 (NCES 2018-144), Employment and Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment.

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