College graduates avoid brunt of layoffs

For one group of workers, the recession hasn't hit quite so hard.

Their unemployment rate was nearly half the overall workforce in December. When they do lose jobs, they tend to find work more quickly than others. Their wages are higher, and they typically have enough savings to survive between jobs.

Yes, it still pays to get a college degree.

Despite recent high-profile layoffs of bankers, accountants and other highly educated workers, college graduates are faring much better than the labor force as a whole. For December, their unemployment rate was 3.7 percent, compared with 7.2 percent for everyone regardless of academic pedigree.

The reason is simple: A degree usually leads to higher-paying, more stable jobs. And if that job goes away, a highly educated worker can always take a step down the career ladder.

College grads "have a privileged position in the labor market," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

That's not to say they haven't been hurt by the recession. The December jobless rate is just shy of the record for college grads — 3.9 percent hit in January 1983.