Thu, Dec 23, 2021 3:03 AM
By Samuel Stebbins, 24/7 Wall St. via The Center Square, The Center Square
College and university students in the class of 2020 faced the worst -- and most uncertain -- job market the U.S. had seen in generations. Economic fallout in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak pushed unemployment to 13.3% in May of 2020 as millions of college students graduated and joined the labor force. Only a month earlier, the U.S. jobless was 14.8%, the highest point since the Great Depression.
With the average annual cost of a college education ranging from about $26,000 at a four-year public school to $54,000 at a private one, many students take on debt to afford college. Total student debt topped $1.7 trillion in 2020. Considering the financial challenges, it is as important as ever that college graduates secure jobs that require the skills they obtained as undergraduates, and that pay a salary that justifies the investment in their education.
Though the job market has improved significantly since the early months of the pandemic on a national scale, in some major U.S. cities, recent college graduates still face considerable hurdles.
Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina is one of the worst places for recent college graduates to look for a job. One reason is limited job availability. As of October 2021, unemployment in the metro area was 8.4%, well above the 4.6% national jobless rate.
The area's high unemployment likely only increases already tight competition for the relatively few job opportunities in fields that traditionally require applicants to have at least a bachelor's degree. Only 5.1% of area jobs are in sectors that typically require a college education -- like information, finance and insurance, professional, scientific, and technical services -- a smaller share than in all but a handful of U.S. metro areas.
The worst cities for recent graduates to find a job were identified using an index of six key measures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau: (1) average monthly earnings for 22-24-year-olds in Q1 2021, (2) change in employment of 22-24-year-olds from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021, (3) the share of 22-24-year-olds employed in professions that typically require a college education, (4) the October 2021 unemployment rate, (5) the ratio of median earnings for adults with a bachelor's degree to the median earnings for adults of all education levels, and (6) the poverty rate among college educated adults. Only metro areas where 35% or less of the population 3 years and over are enrolled in college or graduate school were considered in our analysis.
RankMetro areaEmployment in sectors that typically require a 4-yr. degree (%)Avg. monthly earnings of 22-24 year-olds ($)Poverty rate among adults with a bachelor's degree (%)1El Centro, CA7.11,82813.72Yuma, AZ10.51,99412.33Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI5.12,2618.64Hattiesburg, MS7.91,52016.15Santa Fe, NM12.42,03312.06Farmington, NM9.61,83813.47Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS8.91,69913.18Beckley, WV8.21,93614.59Fayetteville, NC10.41,77613.010Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA8.31,76712.411Flint, MI9.51,94613.112Kingston, NY11.51,99811.413East Stroudsburg, PA5.61,8948.814Grants Pass, OR7.12,04315.515Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH11.11,95210.816Erie, PA11.21,86911.017Lake Charles, LA8.52,38010.918Pine Bluff, AR11.31,76013.719Albany, GA10.31,71215.420Muskegon, MI6.01,98611.221Valdosta, GA11.11,67615.122New Orleans-Metairie, LA12.12,02812.623Pocatello, ID10.31,79412.324Brownsville-Harlingen, TX10.31,61715.725Houma-Thibodaux, LA9.32,15913.026Shreveport-Bossier City, LA10.51,82613.827Saginaw, MI9.31,99512.728Sumter, SC7.21,91813.829Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL12.12,01910.130Battle Creek, MI10.32,26812.0