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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Data Do Not Show a Shortage of Workers With College Degrees

Data Do Not Show a Shortage of Workers With College Degrees

Thursday, 13 June 2013 04:55

A NYT piece on the growth in the percentage of young people getting college degrees included the assertion from Jamie P. Merisotis, the chief executive of the Lumina Foundation:

“There are worrisome signs that the demand for high-skilled talent is increasing more rapidly than we’re actually educating people ... We can’t expect our citizens to meet the demands of the 21st-century economy and society without a 21st-century education.”

It is not clear what this evidence would be. The unemployment rate for college graduates, although down from its peak in 2010, is still close to twice its pre-recession level. In addition, wages for college graduates without advance degrees were stagnant even before the recession. These facts suggest that the economy is not suffering from a shortage of highly educated worker, although there may be some narrow occupations and locations in which shortages appear.

Comments (11)Add Comment
written by Last Mover, June 13, 2013 6:52

Uh huh. Like it's really "worrisome" there may not be enough college graduates available with basic degrees to order highly skilled physicians around from a simple spreadsheet that prevents them from spending more than 15 minutes per patient according to the standards of the corporate megastructure that bought them out.
What sector?
written by nassim sabba, June 13, 2013 7:51
It is misleading also to consider all college graduates as equal. Many who are in liberal arts are probably not as valuable to the high tech companies as those with technical degrees, such as engineers. Even physicists are not as much in demand as engineers.
The problem is that by propagating this issue as a broad shortage causes more people to attend college in any major they can manage assuming that the shortage will lead to them being hired.
The media has to say that the shortage is in specific areas. But then, banks who make college loans to these unsuspecting youth will loose a lot of business. So, we hype the shortage as with "any" college degree just to pump up the education business and the supporting educational finance industry.
If the youth were told that the shortage is in technical fields and there is over supply of liberal arts graduates, we would help prevent much hardship from usury loans most young people take out to get a degree.
written by Kat, June 13, 2013 8:02
Some absolute numbers might be useful in this case. Just because a "21st century job" is increasing more rapidly than an "old economy" (the type you don't have to be "passionate" about I guess) does not mean that there are a lot of these jobs or even that they will provide the bulk of employment in the future.
Anyway, there are plenty of real problems right now to worry about without worrying about a lack of college graduates to fill these "21st century jobs".
No attention to the real problem
written by Jennifer Reft , June 13, 2013 9:04
Between the Washington Post and the NYT this article is printed about every week-yes more people are graduating for college-but you know they are not educated enough, or in the right way. I don't really see any evidence that people are graduating from college since the recession any less qualified for work then they were before. I do see that since the recession corporations are shameless in what they ask of employees in terms of pay, (low), qualifications, (high), and job security, (none). But the best part is how these same corporations whose employees are often dependent on state services (food stamps, Medicaid) are actively pushing for these services to be cut. Kind of wish articles on those topics would run more often.
written by skeptonomist, June 13, 2013 9:13
Presumably the education or training demanded by employers increases with unemployment. When you have a larger pool of applicants for a given job, how do you choose from among them? You could do some actual testing, but it's easier just to use the information they provide routinely. I have not seen any data on this. Was the concern about lack of education as prominent before 2007? How about in the boom before 2001? Why was the lack of education not a major impediment to the dot-com boom?
def not all college degrees are equal....
written by pete, June 13, 2013 11:36
This really seems to conflict with Dean calling for increased immigration of doctors and nurses to drive our health care costs down....there is clearly a shortage there. Mostly that is the SEIU and AMA, of course, lobbying for less education and stricter licensing.

Seriously, when you take the hundreds of thousands of highly skilled students at IIT, or the better schools in China, and try and match them up with U.S. college education, you begin to see the problem. Our silly education system, which involves 1) wasting valuable ElHi educational resources trying to make everybody college ready, even though many would be better off with extensive job training; 2) wasting valuable collegiate educational resources by offering grants and subsidized loans to allcomers, regardless of whether what is being studied is going to be particularly useful. Now I do think anyone should be free to study anything, because we need research in a lot of areas also, and these go hand in had. Just not necessarily on my tax dollar. 3) we export higher education, like masters degrees to these highly trained Indians and Chinese, and then do not allow them to remain.

So this is the disconnect. I doubt the U.S. education system will change to a German or Chinese model. So instead, educated 'em and keep 'em! The Dream Act II.
written by JDM, June 13, 2013 12:03
Maybe those business guys ought to lobby hard to get corporate taxes raised back up to the 1950s level so we can offer higher education deals again. That would solve their "problem".

But they don't do that. It's almost as if they don't really think there's much of a problem for them, or they're just posturing.
written by C Donnelly, June 13, 2013 1:50
I saw this in an education article today and thought of what Dean would say:

"Because there is such a shortage of technology professionals in the U.S. workforce, we are seeing diminishing GDP (gross domestic product) that translates into widening trade imbalances with developing countries, greater domestic inflation and greater U.S. foreign debt."

He is saying he wants more intelligent people
written by Floccina, June 13, 2013 1:58
He is saying he wants more intelligent people to hire.
Self Serving BS to lobby for import of low wage workers
written by jumpinjezebel, June 13, 2013 8:02
This is mostly baloney. The big companies have HR departments that continue to make up job requirements that have nothing really to do with what the job calls for!! "They're cutting off their nose to spite their face."
written by watermelonpunch, June 13, 2013 8:12
I agree that not all degrees are equal.
Many degrees from for profit colleges are widely said to be worthless to many employers.
Perhaps this is what explains the discrepancy. What Merisotis maybe means is that too many people, including tax payers, are wasting money on worthless educations?
But if so, Merisotis should say so.
Since he doesn't it kind of makes it sound like he is actually writing in such a way as to advertise them.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.