A Fresh Look at Data Tells Us Good Jobs are Returning

George Knowles, Digital Communications Associate

Ever since the 2008 Great Recession, the conventional wisdom has been that for recent college graduates, finding a well-paying job was becoming harder and harder, and young people just out of postsecondary school were last in line to get them.

However, according to a recent report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (Georgetown CEW), students with freshly-minted college degrees are now increasingly being hired for jobs with good salaries and benefits.

“The vast majority of jobs that are being created are not only going to people with college degrees, but a significant number of the jobs are what we call good jobs,” said Marty Van Der Werf, Associate Director of Editorial and Postsecondary Policy at Georgetown CEW.

cew text boxThe report explains that in this slow economic recovery, good jobs have grown the most. Of all 6.6 million jobs added during the recovery, nearly 3 million of these were good jobs, compared to 1.9 million middle-wage and 1.8 million low-wage jobs. Additionally, most of the good jobs that were added included health and retirement benefits, and 86 percent of these new jobs are full-time.

What makes a job “good?” For the purposes of the report, Georgetown CEW defines good jobs as those with salaries of $53,000 or above per year. In addition to salary, the report also measures factors such as full-time or part-time status, or the percentage of jobs that offer retirement or health benefits.

Most notably, the report contradicts a commonly-heard narrative about highly-qualified college graduates forced to accept low-skill, low-paying jobs, and it reveals that the economy, in spite of a serious recession, has persisted in creating more and more jobs that require college degrees.

The report’s conclusions are different from other stories on job growth because many analyses of the recovery organizes worker and job data by industry, not by occupation, said Van Der Werf.

Examining job data by industry can be misleading because there is a wide range of salary data within certain industries that can often skew the results. By organizing job data around occupation instead (which often are comparable regardless of industry), the report revealed that more college graduates were being hired to perform good jobs.

“We went looking for this story,” said Van Der Werf. “We thought that if we crunched the data differently, we would find this analysis, and sure enough, we found it.”

The report’s findings also drive home the importance of earning a postsecondary degree to find a good job. With the exception of certain “blue collar” jobs with specialized skills, there is a large and growing divide between the kinds of well-paying jobs available for workers who have college degrees and those who don’t.

“We’re continuing to see a scouring out in the workforce of people who hold a high school diploma or less,” said Van Der Werf. “People with only high school credentials are continually being pushed into jobs that pay less, are less likely to benefit them, or are part time. The bachelor’s degree is becoming almost a prerequisite.”

George Knowles is the Digital Communications Associate with the American Youth Policy Forum.


The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF events and publications are made possible by contributions from philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.