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In my post-retirement life I often see under or un-employed recent college graduates, clearly illustrating the recent economic research result that the unemployment remains elevated for both young high school and college graduates (19.5 percent and 7.2 percent respectively). In a way, these numbers (as awful as they are) comfort me a little since it shows the college education gives some advantage to the college graduates in employment opportunities. In fact, I was often alarmed by the fact that most recent college students seem to seek college education in order to get better jobs or wages rather than to pursue knowledge in arts and sciences. I have always believed that college educated people are, on the whole, better off in their grasp of the world and thus happier; however, I was not so sure if the college education would give the graduates more financial stability. However, I am slightly relieved (this sentiment itself may be problematical but nonetheless real) to know it is true that the college graduates do better in the job market, at least statistically: judging from the research data provided by the Economic Policy Institute from 1994 to 2015, the college graduates do consistently better in their employment rate than the high-school graduates. Yet, the future for the recent college graduates may not be necessarily an easy one, even without the induction of robotic workforce in skilled jobs (see my previous blog entry “The Age of Robots”).

Alyssa Davis and Will Kimball of the Economic Policy Institute write in their May 14 blog: “Although these [unemployment] rates have come down from the peaks after the Great Recession, they are still elevated above their 2007 levels (5.5 percent for college grads and 15.9 percent for high school grads), which were already high compared to the more favorable rates seen in 1995-2000. The Class of 2015 joins a sizable backlog of unemployed college graduates from the last six graduating classes (the classes of 2009–2014) in a difficult job market. Further, the headline unemployment rate may understate continued weakness in the labor market. A more comprehensive measure of labor market slack is the ‘underemployment rate’ (officially, the U-6 measure of labor underutilization). In addition to the unemployed (jobless workers who report that they are actively seeking work), the underemployment rate also includes those who work part time but want full-time work (‘involuntary’ part timers), and those who want a job and have looked for work in the last year but have given up actively seeking work within the last month (‘marginally attached’ workers). The underemployment rate is 14.9 percent for young college graduates and 37.0 percent for young high school graduates. These numbers are elevated compared to their 2007 levels (9.6 percent for college grads and 26.8 percent for high school grads), which is a sign that many young graduates either want a job but have simply given up looking for work, or have a job that does not provide the hours they need. Underemployment remains particularly high compared to its pre-recession levels. The ratio of the underemployment to unemployment is near the highest it’s ever been for young high school graduates and college graduates, (1.9 and 2.1, respectively). The wide gap between unemployment and underemployment suggests that the lack of opportunities is either forcing young people to drop out of the labor force or take part-time jobs while they look for full-time jobs.”

I can almost envision the specter of young people who linger in a long or permanent vacation living with their parents. I can’t say if they are happy or not. If happiness comes from earning economic independence by working for well-paid jobs, the unemployed youth will be unhappy. If happiness comes mostly from accomplishing work well done (there is such a thing as unpaid “work,” which often is a form of exploitation), the unemployed youth will be probably rather unhappy without having steady paid work. If happiness comes only doing things that one enjoys doing, it is possible for the unemployed youth to enjoy a long or permanent vacation – at the expense of probably their suffering parents.