NYT Invents Story That Young College Graduates Can’t Find Jobs – OpEd


The media are trying every way they can to push a bad economy story despite massive evidence that we are seeing the best economy in half a century. (No that doesn’t mean everyone is doing great, it means they are doing better on average than in the past.)  

NYT columnist Peter Coy made his contribution to the effort with a column headlined “Why Can’t College Grads Find Jobs?” The piece then goes on to tell readers that unemployed recent grads are transitioning to employment at a somewhat lower rate than the average for the past two decades.

That sounds like bad news, but it requires a bit of reflection. The key measure in the Coy piece is the situation of “unemployed” college grads. This means that he is only looking at recent college graduates who reported being unable to find work in the prior month.

Many college graduates will not end up in this category. They may have a job arranged while they are still in college or perhaps moving into full-time employment at a job they had previously held part-time. In any case, if we want to assess the job prospects for recent college grads we need to look at all recent college grads, not just the relatively small fraction that reported being unemployed.

A recent analysis by Katherine DeCourcy and Elise Gould, at the Economic Policy Institute, looked at the situation of all recent college grads, not just the ones who reported being unemployed. This story looks markedly better than the situation reported in the Coy piece.

The unemployment rate and underemployment rate for recent grads  (ages 21 to 24), had fallen below the pre-pandemic low, although the unemployment rate has creeped up slightly in recent months. There clearly is no story here of it being difficult for recent college grads to find jobs, unless we think it was also difficult for them to find jobs in 2019, just before the pandemic hit.

This column could have been more accurately reporting on how college grads can find jobs, but apparently that is not the line that most reporters or columnists are interested in promoting.

Dean Baker

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy.

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