How a Class That Graduated in the Early Days of the Recession Has Fared Since

July 08, 2014

The Class of 2008 graduated from college in the early months of the Great Recession. New government data show that, four years later, 69 percent of its members were working and not enrolled in a postsecondary program, while 10.7 percent were both employed and enrolled. Nearly 6 percent were enrolled but not working, while 6.7 percent were unemployed and 7.9 percent were out of the work force.

The data were released by the National Center for Education Statistics on Tuesday in a report, "Baccalaureate and Beyond: A First Look at the Employment Experiences and Lives of College Graduates, 4 Years On." The Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study follows a nationally representative sample of college graduates over time. The report provides a snapshot of the employment picture for graduates who earned their bachelor’s degrees in the 2007-8 academic year, based on a sample of about 17,000. The report, in the center’s typical fashion, offers lots of numbers but no analysis or indication of causal relationships.

Even though the recession was under way, graduates who finished college in 2007-8 experienced a typical transition to the work force, said Phil Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. "They got in," he said, "and once they got in they’ve been able to stay in and sustain their careers."

Many students in the Class of 2008 had already lined up jobs before the recession’s effects were felt, Mr. Gardner said. Those who graduated in 2009 and 2010 were not so lucky.

Anthony P. Carnevale agreed. The 2007-8 graduates were "basically a step ahead of the storm," said Mr. Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Recessions tend to affect less-educated workers before those with bachelor’s degrees, he added.

Here are some more high-level findings in the report, which also includes breakdowns by sex, race and ethnicity, major, sector, and age at the point of graduation:

  • Of graduates who were not enrolled in further postsecondary studies in 2012, 82.5 percent were employed. Of those, 84.5 percent were in one full-time job, 7.8 percent had one part-time job, and 7.7 percent had multiple jobs.
  • Graduates who worked but had never gone on for more postsecondary education had held an average of 2.1 jobs in the years since graduation. Nearly 39 percent had held one job, while 11.4 percent had held four or more jobs.
  • On average, graduates who had not pursued further postsecondary education worked 84 percent of the months since graduating, spent 5.8 percent of those months unemployed, and spent 10.2 percent of them out of the labor force.
  • Graduates who were not enrolled in a postsecondary program in 2012 and who had a full- or part-time job worked, on average, 41.2 hours a week in that job. Full-time workers earned an average annual salary of $52,200 and a median salary of $46,000. Part-time workers earned an average of $25,900 and a median of $20,200.

More information on the Class of 2007-8 will be available this fall. The National Center for Education Statistics plans to release a fuller report on the group’s employment outcomes then, said Ted Socha, a Baccalaureate and Beyond program officer. It will include answers to more in-depth survey questions than the government has previously asked about all the jobs graduates have held since finishing college.