Millennial Job Prospects Suck: 1 in 2 New Graduates Are Underemployed

In the past, students graduated from college optimistic; filled with the hope that a degree would give them an upper hand once they started their job search. These days, many students are graduating with much less confidence. A new Associated Press study indicates that half of all recent graduates are either out of work or have a job that has nothing to do with their degree.

The study was broken down by region and the news is not encouraging. The Mountain West region is the most likely area of the country to have young college graduates jobless or underemployed.

According to the study, which analyzed government data, graduates with degrees in zoology, anthropology, and the humanities had the hardest time finding jobs in their fields. Those with degrees in nursing, teaching, accounting, and computer science, had the most success.

The study says about 1.5 million, or 53.6%, of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 were jobless or underemployed last year. That's an 11-year high. Most jobs went to people at the top or bottom of the wage scale, all at the expense of middle income jobs.

Andrew Sum, Director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, who analyzed the numbers, said many people with a bachelor's degree face a double whammy of rising tuition and poor job outcomes.

"Simply put, we're failing kids coming out of college," he said, emphasizing that when it comes to jobs, a college major can make all the difference. "We're going to need a lot better job growth and connections to the labor market, otherwise college debt will grow."

Young adults with bachelor's degrees are getting by with lower-wage jobs such as working as a waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk, or receptionist.

The high jobless and underemployment rate could have long-term consequences for the American economy. Total student loan debt surpassed $1trillion this year, and the rate of delinquency on those loans is already disturbingly high.

Though college graduates earn significantly more than workers with only a high school diploma, the inability of college graduates to find adequate employment could drive those delinquencies even higher. Worse yet, it could plague more workers with life-long debt, preventing them from forming new households or purchasing more consumer goods.

Personally, I know quite a few people with bachelor's and masters degrees, and they are looking for jobs and pretty worried about their student loans. "It's pretty bad out there," said one international student. 

Harvard economist Richard Freeman told the AP that a college degree could make you more money, but that won't be the case for everyone.

“If you're not sure what you're going to be doing,” Freeman said, “it probably bodes well to take some job, if you can get one, and get a sense first of what you want from college.”