Educated and unemployed – majority of unemployed Americans attended some college. Top degrees in fields with little employment demand.

The higher education bubble is racing along to a tipping point especially when the value of a college education is now being questioned on multiple fronts.  One of the more prominent arguments being thrown around is the return on investment or value of a college degree especially when the costs of attending a private institution reach upwards of $50,000 a year.  The median household income in the US barely makes that amount to begin with.  The issue stems with the number of Americans diving into ludicrous amounts of debt to finance their educational journey.  Another recent revelation highlights another disturbing trend in that those with some college education dominate the ranks of the unemployed.  In other words, those without a college degree have higher employment prospects in the current economy.

Educated and unemployed     

A troubling chart was recently released analyzing the unemployed in the United States.  The chart is startling:

education vs unemployment

Source:  IBD

What you are witnessing is the dilution of a college education.  With millions attending for-profit institutions that carry little economic value once students graduate and saddle them with tens of thousands in debt, you have a large number of recent graduates with degrees that carry little value in the marketplace.  At the same time, the cost of going to college has far outpaced the overall inflation rate:

college costs

We all know the repercussions of the housing bubble popping but the cost of higher education has far outpaced even that bubble.  This is an enormous bubble and the fact that the majority of the currently unemployed have some college education is troubling.  What is more difficult to swallow is that many are young Americans who took on the brunt of the college inflation.  It is a recipe for major economic upheaval.  You have those with the least amount saved and the highest levels of debt unable to find work in this economy.

The prospects of finding work in this economy are tough.  Certain sectors are hiring including those in some engineering specialties, healthcare, and the sciences.  Yet the top degrees being pushed out do not meet these demands in the currently weak economic market.  Look at the latest data for college graduates:

top degrees conferred

Source:  National Center for Education Statistics

The top field was in business.  Yet there is a big difference from say getting an accounting degree and getting a degree in marketing.  The second largest degree section is the social science category.  It will be hard to land a job with mediocre grades and a degree in sociology.  This isn’t to take away from any field but look at the above chart and you see the saturation of graduates for each field.  If the top fields for hiring are engineering, healthcare, and other sciences look at the pool of gradates that are coming out into the job market.  It would be one thing if students were pursuing these degrees with little debt but instead are following their educational endeavors by going into insane levels of student debt.

“(Investors) For the first time in history, the number of jobless workers age 25 and up who have attended some college now exceeds the ranks of those who settled for a high school diploma or less.

Out of 9 million unemployed in April, 4.7 million had gone to college or graduated and 4.3 million had not, seasonally adjusted Labor Department data show.

That’s a swing of more than 2 million since the start of 1992, early in another jobless recovery, when 4.1 million who hadn’t gone to college were jobless vs. 2.3 million jobless who had gone.”

Those least able to afford the college debt are the most likely to be unemployed.  Welcome to higher education circa 2012.

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8 Comments on this post

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  1. peter said:

    I HAVE THE ANSWER FOR THESE YOUNG PEOPLE. I THINK ITS A TREMENDOUS ADVANTAGE IF A COLLEGE STUDENT GOES TO NIGHT SCHOOL FIND A JOB IN THE DAYTIME TO PAY FOR HIS COLLEGE. HE WILL GAIN 3 ACCOMPLISHMENTS 1-HE WILL GAIN ON THE JOB EXPERIANCE 2-HE WILL PAY FOR HIS COLLEGE WITH NO DEBT. 3-HE WILL RECEIVE HIS COLLEGE DEGREE, BUT HE WILL BE A MORE VALUABLE ASSET FOR BUSINESS UPON GRADUATION. HE WILL HAVE OBTAINED EXPERIANCE PLUS EDUCATION.
    HE WILL UNDERSTAND 2 IMPORTANT PRICIPLES THE JUDGEMENT OF RISK WHICH IS USUALLY OBTAINED THRU EXPERIANCE. AND HE WILL HAVE A BETTER IDEA WHEN HE OBTAINS A SUFFICIENT AMOUNT OF FACTS TO MAKE A LOGICAL DECISION.

    May 25th, 2012 at 5:36 am
  2. Robin E Osborn said:

    Bottom line. Not everyone should go to college. Fact. If you do go to college and major in art appreciation or geography you will not have a job in that field when you are done. Another fact. The politicians buy votes by supplying those who should not go to college with the money in loans that commonly never get paid back. Fact. Once you have gone to college and cannot find a job, instead of doing something they commonly do nothing or very little. Just another burden on society that should have been a plumber or a plumber’s helper. Bottom line. Not everyone should go to college. In case you forgot.
    Todays young people live by a very strict code. “Why struggle when you can linger”.

    May 25th, 2012 at 7:44 am
  3. Cincinnaticus said:

    “Higher education” has become a scam and is simply unaffordable for most people these days. When I attended college two decades ago, the in-state tuition I paid for attending a first-tier engineering college was just over $2000.00 per year. Today, that number has more than quadrupled! As Dylan Ratigan stated on his show, it’s better to be debt free and unemployed verses being college educated with tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt and unemployed. And to make matters even worse, it’s monstrously difficult to discharge education loans in bankruptcy! This situation can only be described as modern day form of debt peonage. In the past, Europeans could immigrate to the United States to escape such crushing debt burdens. Today, where can the average American go to escape his/her debt? At some point, this entire charade will collapse like a house of cards but I’m afraid it will take a revolution with blood flowing in the streets to force it to happen.

    May 25th, 2012 at 12:48 pm
  4. No One Of Consequence said:

    Peter, you are an anachronism.

    Your advice might have been good once there old-timer, but I think it’s time you keep your advice to yourself.

    May 26th, 2012 at 11:27 pm
  5. Hillary said:

    This honestly doesn’t surprise me. I know many people in these exact positions. I have friends who are very well educated and can’t find a job to save their life, even getting responses from places they should have no problem getting into saying they are over qualified.

    May 28th, 2012 at 6:59 am
  6. Greg said:

    Pete the problem with your argument is that higher education in this day and age is too expensive to pay off with your average job. The average 18 year old kid coming out of high school will be lucky to land a job at Burger Kid let alone a job that’s able to pay for a $10,000 plus tuition. Also job experience means very little if you’re working at your local drug store and you’re going to school to become an engineer.

    This old way of thinking does not apply to the current situation when school tuition was actually affordable. I do agree though it’s better to not have your degree and be debt free than have your degree and find yourself tens of thousands of dollars in debt and unemployed

    May 30th, 2012 at 11:07 am
  7. chris said:

    There are many high paying jobs available for grads with 4 year degrees in engineering and computer science. Who is encouraging kids to study business and social science? I don’t get it.

    March 27th, 2013 at 4:35 am
  8. Jim said:

    Today employers ONLY want experienced workers! Yes they will hire an uneducated cashier over a engineering school graduate. But they wont make the cashier or the college grad a practicing engineer. Outsourcing gives company’s new options. Soon only the select few will get good jobs and it will have nothing to do with college or attitude and everything to do with personnel connections and who knows who. Well dont worry the rich will still stay on top…

    February 27th, 2014 at 9:24 am

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