The Class of 2015: Despite an Improving Economy, Young Grads Still Face an Uphill Climb

By Elizabeth Blume

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) issued a briefing paper on the economic challenges facing high school and college graduates from the class of 2015. They are entering a labor market that, while improved over the past five years, still has high levels of unemployment, underemployment and numbers of graduates that are “idled” (neither enrolled in school nor employed). The report recommends policy solutions that promote full employment, boost wages and invest in infrastructure.

Key findings of the report are as follows:

• Although there is some improvement since 2009, unemployment, underemployment and “idled” rates for graduates still remain significantly higher than before the recession:

o Among college graduates (ages 21-24):

Unemployment rate is 7.2% compared to 5.5% in 2007.

Underemployment rate is 14.9% compared to 9.6% in 2007

“Idled” rate is 10.5% compared to 8.4% in 2007.

o Among high school graduates (ages 17-20):

Unemployment rate is 19.5% compared to 15.9% in 2007.

Underemployment rate is 37% compared to 26.8% in 2007

“Idled” rate is 16.3% compared with 13.7% in 2007.

• Wages of graduates are lower than they were in 2000: 2.5% lower for college graduates and 5.5% lower for high school graduates. The wages of women graduates have particularly declined.

• Unemployment rates of black and Hispanic college and high school graduates are substantially higher than white non-Hispanic graduates.

• For the next 10-15 years, the class of 2015 will likely earn less than if they had graduated before the recession.