Half College Graduates in Jobs That Don’t Need Degrees

Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013 12:30 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Job prospects for millions of young adults with college degrees are unlikely to improve with the economy, leaving many forced to be underemployed in jobs that don't require their educational qualifications.

Nearly half of employed college graduates currently work in jobs that don't require a college degree, reports The Wall Street Journal, and the problem doesn't seem to be temporary, according to a paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

In the document, a team of Canadian economists argues the United States may be educating too many people for its current needs. In the 1990s, companies needed hundreds of thousands of skilled workers for the growing high-tech industry. However, demand for skills has fallen in recent years, but young people continued to major in those courses in the country's college's and universities.

“Once the robots are in place you still need some people, but you need a lot less than when you were putting in the robots,” said Paul Beaudry, an economist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, the paper's lead author. He said new technologies may revive the demand for workers with advanced skills, but economic recovery won't be enough to put everyone in jobs matching up with their education.

While corporations complain there are too few qualified workers, that is the exception rather than the rule, said Beaudry. Demand for college-level workers, especially in management professionals and technical workers, peaked around 2000, about the time the so-called dot-com bubble was bursting, and then declined. However, the supply of such workers grew through the 2000s.

People with college educations are still better off than their less-educated counterparts, the report said. Unemployment for Americans with at least a bachelor's degree was at 3.8 percent in February, but at 7.9 percent for people with a high-school diploma. Employees with college educations are also more likely to make more money and advance more quickly, even when they work in jobs that don't require a degree.

But because they are taking the lower-level jobs, college graduates are forcing people with less education out of the workforce, the report concludes.

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