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Job Recovery Far from Complete

Prolonged dip continues as unemployment among college grads grows

July 12, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 28


This June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) latest monthly survey of employers, the upturn in nonfarm payrolls that started last September continued with a modest gain of 112,000 jobs in June. Payroll jobs, however, still remained 1.2 million below their peak of 132.5 million set in March 2001. This hiatus in payroll growth, now 40 months and counting, is the longest since World War II. The previous eight such pauses averaged 23 months.


This situation is reminiscent of what was happening in June 1992, another election year. At that time, payrolls had been growing, if slowly, for 13 months. But they were still 1.2 million below the previous peak set 25 months earlier. It would take another eight months to reach new high ground for a then-record 33 months of no growth.

BLS's other monthly data series--which measures total employment and unemployment and is based on a Bureau of the Census survey of households--paints a less dire jobs picture. It pegs June employment at 139 million. This figure is up by 259,000 for the month and by 1.2 million from the previous high in January 2001. This means an average 350,000 annual gain over the past three-and-a-half years--far lower than the 2.3 million annual gain for the previous eight years.

A subset of this survey follows the fortunes of college graduates in the workforce. It indicates continuous growth in their employment level since 1992, but at a considerably slower pace since 2000. From 1992 to 2000, the number of college graduates in the workforce grew by 1.1 million annually. This growth has since dipped to 700,000 annually. Unemployment among college graduates is up from 560,000, or 1.5%, at the end of 2000 to almost 1.1 million, or 2.7%, this June.


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