The job market for recent college graduates in the United States

April 05, 2013

In October 2011, the unemployment rate for 20- to 29-year-olds who had graduated from college in 2011 was 12.6 percent. The rate was 13.5 percent for those who recently had earned bachelor’s degrees and 8.6 percent for those who recently had earned advanced degrees. Despite modest improvement since the most recent peak in October 2009, the unemployment rates of recent college graduates remained above the rates prior to the 2007–2009 recession.

Unemployment rates of recent college graduates ages 20 to 29 by degree and gender, October 2007–2011
Degree and gender20072008200920102011

Bachelor's degree








Advanced degree








Men who had earned bachelor’s degrees in 2011 had an unemployment rate of 16.1 percent in October 2011, compared with 11.2 percent for their female counterparts. Over the period of October 2007 to October 2009, the unemployment rate of both male and female recent bachelor’s degree recipients rose sharply. The increase in unemployment was especially severe for men, who experienced a peak unemployment rate of 26.6 percent in October 2009, more than twice the rate of their female counterparts.

The October 2011 unemployment rate for men who had earned advanced degrees in 2011 was 12.0 percent, compared with 6.1 percent for women who had earned advanced degrees in 2011.

Among the employed 2011 recipients of bachelor’s or advanced degrees, about 2 in 5 found work in educational and health services in October 2011. Twenty percent of recent bachelor’s degree recipients and 30 percent of recent advanced degree recipients were employed in educational services. About 18 percent of recent bachelor’s degree recipients and 25 percent of recent advanced degree recipients worked in health care and social assistance.

Percent distribution of employed recent college graduates ages 20 to 29 by industry and degree, October 2011
IndustryBachelor's degreeAdvanced degree



Educational services


Health care and social assistance


Professional and business services


Leisure and hospitality


Wholesale and retail trade


All other industries




Financial activities


Public administration



Almost one-quarter of 2011 recipients of advanced degrees were employed in professional and business services. Recent bachelor’s degree recipients made up almost all of the recent graduates employed in leisure and hospitality.

These data are from the Current Population Survey. To learn more, see "Recent college graduates in the U.S. labor force: data from the Current Population Survey," (PDF) by Thomas Luke Spreen, Monthly Labor Review, February 2013. College graduates are persons who completed a bachelor’s degree or more education. Recipients of an advanced degree are those who received a master’s, professional, or doctoral degree.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, The job market for recent college graduates in the United States on the Internet at (visited September 28, 2016).


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