Have degree - and pink slip

The number of college grads seeking work is at an all time high, which means more bad news for the broader economy.

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By Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com staff writer

Do you know anyone who has lost a job recently?
  • I have
  • A friend or family member
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- There are currently a record number of unemployed college graduates seeking work. So many, in fact, that they outnumber high school dropouts on the job hunt.

In November the number of people with a higher degree who were out of work rose to 1.413 million from 1.411 million in the previous month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Comparatively, there were 1.282 million unemployed high school dropouts, up slightly from 1.273 million in October.

"College graduates are not going to get away unscathed," said Dean Baker, director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC, "everyone is being hit by this."

While the manufacturing and construction industries were hardest hit by layoffs last month - 85,000 and 82,000 jobs lost, respectively, according to the Labor Department - it is the professional and business services category that many economists view as a barometer for overall economic activity.

In its November jobs report, the Labor Department said that firms in the business and professional services category cut 136,000 jobs, the largest one-month drop on record. Additionally, financial services jobs fell by 32,000, another record decline.

Those job cuts are hitting college educated workers the hardest, according to Dr. Reena Aggarwal, a professor of finance at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.

"A lot of the job losses are the more higher paying jobs and it's just going to mean far fewer dollars flowing into the economy," she said.

A glass half full

But even though business and professional services saw significant layoffs, the unemployment rate among those with a higher degree held steady at 3.1% in November. The overall unemployment rate rose to 6.7% from 6.5% in October.

"You're still less than half as likely to be unemployed if you have a college degree," Baker said.

"The numbers say, despite these conditions, we still have a strong job market within the professional skills category, nearly 97% of college-educated workers are employed," said Janette Marx, senior vice president of Ajilon Global, professional staffing firm.

Going forward, "you may see an increase but it will probably remain at half or less than half of the overall unemployment rate," Marx said.

Experts agree that overall unemployment is likely to rise substantially in the months ahead. The Labor Department announced that the economy shed 533,000 jobs in November, the largest monthly job loss total since December 1974. The year's total job losses is now 1.9 million, not including the slew of large-scale job-cut announcements on Thursday.

But Baker said college graduates shouldn't panic, yet. "In a way, there's been a little bit of a lead time," she explained. "Students understand this is not going to be a market where they will have three or four offers." To top of page

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