These two Georgia cities are the worst for college graduates to find a job


College and university students in the class of 2020 faced the worst — and most uncertain — job market the U.S. had seen in generations. Economic fallout in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak pushed unemployment to 13.3% in May of 2020 as millions of college students graduated and joined the labor force. Only a month earlier, the U.S. jobless was 14.8%, the highest point since the Great Depression.

With the average annual cost of a college education ranging from about $26,000 at a four-year public school to $54,000 at a private one, many students take on debt to afford college. Total student debt topped $1.7 trillion in 2020. Considering the financial challenges, it is as important as ever that college graduates secure jobs that require the skills they obtained as undergraduates, and that pay a salary that justifies the investment in their education.

Though the job market has improved significantly since the early months of the pandemic on a national scale, in some major U.S. cities, recent college graduates still face considerable hurdles.

The Albany, Georgia, metro area offers few advantages for recent college graduates looking for work. For one, employment opportunities for young adults in the area are not especially well paying. The average monthly wage among those in the 22 to 24 age group in the area is just $1,712, less than in over 90% of all U.S. metro areas.

The Valdosta, Georgia, metro area has a relatively strong job market, with just 2.6% of the labor force out of work as of October 2021, 2 percentage points below the national jobless rate. However, many employment opportunities for young adults are not especially well paying. The average monthly wage among those in the 22 to 24 age group in the area is just $1,676, less than in over 90% of all U.S. metro areas.

Valdosta residents who have a college education are also far more likely to face poverty in their lifetime than those with a college degree nationwide. The local poverty rate among adults with a bachelor’s degree stands at 15.1%, compared to just 9.6% nationwide.

Nationwide, just under 10% of American adults with a college degree live below the poverty line. In the Albany metro area, financial security appears to be far more allusive for the college educated. The poverty rate among Albany residents 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree is 15.4%, higher than in all but a handful of other U.S. metro areas.

The worst cities for recent graduates to find a job were identified using an index of six key measures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau: (1) average monthly earnings for 22-24-year-olds in Q1 2021, (2) change in employment of 22-24-year-olds from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021, (3) the share of 22-24-year-olds employed in professions that typically require a college education, (4) the October 2021 unemployment rate, (5) the ratio of median earnings for adults with a bachelor’s degree to the median earnings for adults of all education levels, and (6) the poverty rate among college educated adults. Only metro areas where 35% or less of the population 3 years and over are enrolled in college or graduate school were considered in our analysis.

RankMetro areaEmployment in sectors that typically require a 4-yr. degree (%)Avg. monthly earnings of 22-24 year-olds ($)Poverty rate among adults with a bachelor’s degree (%)
1El Centro, CA7.11,82813.7
2Yuma, AZ10.51,99412.3
3Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI5.12,2618.6
4Hattiesburg, MS7.91,52016.1
5Santa Fe, NM12.42,03312.0
6Farmington, NM9.61,83813.4
7Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS8.91,69913.1
8Beckley, WV8.21,93614.5
9Fayetteville, NC10.41,77613.0
10Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA8.31,76712.4
11Flint, MI9.51,94613.1
12Kingston, NY11.51,99811.4
13East Stroudsburg, PA5.61,8948.8
14Grants Pass, OR7.12,04315.5
15Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH11.11,95210.8
16Erie, PA11.21,86911.0
17Lake Charles, LA8.52,38010.9
18Pine Bluff, AR11.31,76013.7
19Albany, GA10.31,71215.4
20Muskegon, MI6.01,98611.2
21Valdosta, GA11.11,67615.1
22New Orleans-Metairie, LA12.12,02812.6
23Pocatello, ID10.31,79412.3
24Brownsville-Harlingen, TX10.31,61715.7
25Houma-Thibodaux, LA9.32,15913.0
26Shreveport-Bossier City, LA10.51,82613.8
27Saginaw, MI9.31,99512.7
28Sumter, SC7.21,91813.8
29Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL12.12,01910.1
30Battle Creek, MI10.32,26812.0

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