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PolitiFact Florida | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact: Tough job market for recent college graduates

The Republican Jewish Coalition recently launched a $6.5 million series of ads targeting voters who have "buyers remorse" about voting for President Barack Obama in 2008.

Florida will be seeing these ads in heavy rotation.

One ad features comments by Michael Goldstein, who is identified on screen as a "Democrat. Jewish. Voted for Obama." Goldstein criticizes several aspects of Obama's presidency, including several concerns about his policy toward the Middle East. But Goldstein also takes on Obama's economic record.

At one point, Goldstein said that "one out of every two kids who are graduating college right now can't find a job." We wondered if that was correct, so we looked into it.

The source of the comment appears to be an article by the Associated Press that got wide play when it hit the wires in April. The headline, at least in some publications, was, "In Weak Job Market, One In Two College Graduates Are Jobless Or Underemployed."

The article is based on research by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, which, in turn, is based on data from the federal Current Population Survey, as well as Labor Department measures of what level of education is required to perform each of some 900 jobs.

Here's how the AP summarized the findings:

"A weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don't fully use their skills and knowledge. Young adults with bachelor's degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that's confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans. …

"About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed. … Out of the 1.5 million who languished in the job market, about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous year."

Upon reading this, we concluded that the speaker in the ad had garbled the statistic a bit.

Rather than roughly half of recent college grads not being able to find a job, the reality is that about 50 percent of recent college graduates are either unemployed or employed in jobs that aren't commensurate with their degree. Of this 50 percent figure, about half are unemployed and about half are in jobs that don't require a college degree.

To make sure our interpretation was correct, we checked with Andrew Sum, the Northeastern professor who did the research. Sum agreed with our analysis and said "the numbers being cited in the ad are not correct."

Our ruling

The ad claims that "one out of every two kids who are graduating college right now can't find a job." That's not quite right — according to Sum's research, about a quarter of recent college grads literally can't find a job, while another quarter have found a job, but one that doesn't require a college degree.

Still, the actual statistic does support the ad's point — that the employment picture for college grads is grim. We rate the claim Mostly True.

PolitiFact Florida is partnering with 10 News for the 2012 election. See video fact-checks at PolitiFact.com/Florida.

The statement

"One out of every two kids who are graduating college right now can't find a job."

Republican Jewish Coalition, in a campaign ad

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: Mostly True

The ad doesn't quite repeat the research on this accurately. A recent study found that about 25 percent of recent college graduates cannot find a job, while another 25 percent have a job, but one that does not require a college degree. We rate this claim Mostly True.

PolitiFact: Tough job market for recent college graduates 08/05/12 [Last modified: Sunday, August 5, 2012 10:10pm]
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