Report: Class of 2018 Has Better Job Prospects than Classes of...

Higher Education

Report: Class of 2018 Has Better Job Prospects than Classes of 2009-2017, but Still Faces Challenges

By Tina Nazerian     May 11, 2018

Report: Class of 2018 Has Better Job Prospects than Classes of 2009-2017, but Still Faces Challenges

With graduation looming, some soon-to-be college graduates are still looking for jobs. A new report might give them a better idea of where they stand—and can provide guidance for colleges trying to support them.

The report, published by the Economic Policy Institute, examines the job outcomes for those between the ages of 21 and 24 with a bachelor’s degree. It found that those in the Class of 2018 have better job prospects than the classes of 2009-2017. However, in comparison to students who graduated into the 2000 job market, the Class of 2018 still has economic challenges.

Among those challenges? Racial disparity for wages.

Zane Mokhiber, a research assistant at the Economic Policy Institute who was one of the authors of the study, tells EdSurge that in the labor market conditions of 2000, young black and white college graduates had “pretty much identical wages.” But now, wages for white graduates have “grown slightly,” he says, whereas wages for black students have “actually stagnated.”

“There’s been a widening gap between the two of those since 2000, which is a pretty astounding result, just because the labor market is starting to look a lot more like it did in 2000, but clearly is not resulting in the same outcomes for black workers as it is for white workers,” he says.

The report also points out that young women with a college degree have average hourly wages of $18.33 in 2018, a slight gain from an average hourly wage of $18.22 in 2000. In contrast, during that time period, men’s wages went up from $20.48 to $21.48. Mokhiber thinks that anything college leaders can do to help students find good jobs, such as investing in mentorship programs, would “likely be positive” in closing the wage gaps that exist for women and people of color.

The report also found that the underemployment rate for young college graduates is still “significantly higher than it was before the recession” in December 2007. In November 2007, for instance, the underemployment rate was 9.4 percent, but by February 2018, the rate was 11.1 percent.

That underemployment rate of 11.1 percent, however, was still far lower than the 18.8 percent rate in August 2011. In terms of the unemployment rate among young college graduates, the researchers note that it has “fallen to pre-recession levels, but it is still higher than the full-employment economy of 2000.”

“While we have made those improvements, we still think there’s room to go,” Mokhiber says.

Jeff Strohl, the director of research at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, says that during the recession, there was a lot of “warehousing”—meaning, college graduates weren’t losing their jobs, but employers stopped hiring. He thinks a few years of a “backlog of college graduates” in the market might be competing for these new entry-level jobs.

Overall, Strohl calls the data “pretty heartening.” 2018 college graduates are in a better position job prospect-wise than those graduating in 2010, he says, when the unemployment and underemployment rates were trending upward. “It sure looks like it’s getting better.”

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