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Jobless Rate for College Grads Falls to Lowest Level Since Recession

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The job market for college graduates continues to improve, according to the latest quarterly report on The Labor Market for Recent College Graduates from the New York Fed Bank.

The unemployment rate for recent college grads, aged 22 to 27, fell to 3.9% in the fourth quarter of last year, its lowest level since the Great Recession and below the 4.7% national jobless rate and 8.6% jobless rate for young workers, according to the New York Fed.

The underemployment rate, which the bank defines as the percentage of graduates in jobs that don’t require a college degree, dropped to 43.5%. That seems high at first glance but the underemployment rate, like the jobless rate for recent grads, was also at a post-Great Recession low, according to the NY Fed.

(Related: 30 Best Paying College Majors: 2016)

The job market for college grads looks even rosier longer term. The unemployment rate for all college grads, from age 22 to 65, was just 2.6% in the fourth quarter while the underemployment rate was 34.2%.

As expected college grads also earned much higher income than their high school counterparts: $43,000 compared to $26,000, or 65% more per year.

Six of the highest paying jobs for recent grads were in the field of engineering, paying between $60,000 annually (for aerospace and mechanical engineering) and $70,000 (for mechanical engineering.

Engineering also dominated the highest paying jobs midcareer — defined as jobs held by those aged 35 to 45 — occupying five out of the six top payers, with wages ranging from $94,000 to $110,000.  Pharmacy was also included in that list.

Among the lowest wage jobs for recent graduates, paying between $27,000 and $30,000, were four involving some kind of social service: theology and religion, treatment therapy, social services and early childhood education. Filling out that list were general social sciences and anthropology.

Education continued to place among the lowest paying jobs midcareer, whose wages ranged from $30,000 to $45,000. Three of the six lowest-paying jobs midcareer were early childhood education, elementary education and general education. Social services, biology and communications were also on that list.

One positive for jobs in education, was the low unemployment rate (below 2%) and underemployment rate (below 20%) for recent graduates in special education, early childhood education and miscellaneous education. Chemical and civil engineering jobs, however, also had low underemployment rates midcareer.

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