4 Key Trends Shown by Recent Grads

Researchers from the New York Federal Reserve have cobbled together statistics (link opens PDF) on whether recent graduates are finding jobs and how much they're getting paid. To no one's surprise, engineering majors take the top spot for both a high employment rate and salary, at $55,000.

However, recent graduates of other majors highlight some telling trends in our economy.

Business and health majors
For those studying business in order to sit atop a company as CEO, chances are you're not going to work anywhere that requires that degree. A hefty 50% of recent business majors, defined as those aged 22 to 27, work in jobs that do not require a bachelor's degree, while 6% remain unemployed. But if you're lucky enough to work in a job that needed that business degree, you'd earn the second-best salary among majors at $51,000. So for business majors, there's a lot of risk for being underemployed, but also a lot of reward if you can find that business-degree-based job.

And in the booming health-care field, health majors had a lower unemployment rate than any other group, at 3%, with 75% of the jobs requiring the degree. They also bring home $49,000 on average per year.

Across the board, recent graduates today still have roughly double the unemployment rate of those in 2000. For example, 27-year-olds who hold a bachelor's degree have an unemployment rate around 4% today, while in 2000 the rate was 2%.

Trends
These numbers help illustrate a few trends. For one, college degrees still help in getting a job. While the national unemployment rate is at 7.6%, only 3.9% of those who are 25 and older and have bachelor's degrees are unemployed:

Second, the relatively high wages and employability of health graduates point to the cyclical strength in the health sector. Our population is aging and needs more medical assistance. As The Atlantic points out, "Since 2003, health care has grown more than ten times faster than the rest of the economy." The makeup of the Dow Jones Industrial Average  (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is indicative of this shift: Both Pfizer and UnitedHealth were added in the past 10 years.

Third, the new federal health-care policy could be a boon for many in the health field, especially hospitals. With the mandate that requires employers to provide health insurance, and individuals to purchase it, the bad debt that hospitals usually write off should, in theory, fall. Over the past year, the stock prices of hospitals have soared with this potential change in industry dynamics.

Finally, the prevalence of underemployment (measured at 46% of recent graduates) demonstrates a wrench somewhere in our macroeconomic system. This could be from an overproduction of graduates, especially in the fields outside of engineering, education, and health. Or it could be a lack of demand not fueling the job creation needed to employ graduates in their respective fields. Either way, there are several graduates who have paid for degrees that they aren't using to their full capacity.

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