Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Thursday May 7th, 2015, 1:39pm

College Grads Face Bleak Wage Landscape, A Breakdown Of Illinois Jobless Rates By Race

The average hourly wage for young female college graduates was a mere $16.56 in March -- just 1.2 percent higher than what was earned by the same demographic at the end of 1989, according to new data released by the Economic Policy Institute.

That's just one of the takeaways from EPI's analysis of wage trends for college and high school graduates, ranging from December of 1989 to March of 2015.

The wage figures -- issued ahead of Friday's jobs report for April -- provide a "glimpse at the future for the graduating class of 2015" and are part of a larger forthcoming EPI report on recent young graduates and the U.S. job market they face.

Young male college graduates, ages 21 to 24, are doing better than women in terms of average real wages, earning $19.64 an hour as of March. That's about 11 percent higher than the average inflation-adjusted wage for this group in December 1989.

When combining both men and women, real average hourly wages for all recent college grads were $17.94 in March, whereas in December of 1989 the hourly wage was $16.85 in 2013 dollars, according to the Washington, D.C-based think tank. The wage data for college grads covers those without an advanced degree who are not enrolled in further schooling.

For high school graduates ages 17 to 20, who are not post-secondary students, average hourly wages were $10.40 in March. In December of 1989, that inflation-adjusted figure was $10.02.

Looking back to 2000, wages are lower today for young college and high school graduates than they were 15 years ago, the analysis shows.

"On average, young college grads can expect higher wages than high school grads, but the college [wage] premium has been relatively flat (for both young graduates as well as for all workers) for nearly 15 years," EPI's senior economic Elise Gould writes in a post accompanying the wage data. "If recent history is any indication, entry-level wages for graduating seniors are expected to be no better than they were for the corresponding cohort who graduated 15 years ago. Fifteen years of stagnant wages--even for that small minority of young workers with a four-year college degree--does not signal a strong economy."

Breakdown of Illinois Unemployment Rates Among Racial Groups

Meanwhile, EPI released another report this week examining state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity for the first quarter of 2015.

The Illinois-specific numbers showed racial gaps in unemployment over the first three months of 2015, with the African-American rate being nearly three times that of whites in Illinois.

In the first quarter of 2015, the Illinois unemployment rate was 12.5 percent for African Americans, followed by Hispanics at 8 percent, Asians at 4.9 percent and whites at 4.4 percent, according to EPI's report. Overall, the March unemployment rate in Illinois was 6 percent. At the national level, the jobless rate was 5.5 percent.

The national unemployment rate was 10.1 percent among African-Americans, 6.8 percent among Hispanics, 4.7 percent among whites and 3.2 percent among Asians.

At 7.4 percent, Virginia had the lowest African-American unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2015, while the District of Columbia had the highest at 15.8 percent. The unemployment rate among Hispanics was lowest in Georgia, 3.5 percent, and highest in Connecticut, 12.6 percent.

"Despite the small improvement in the national unemployment rate, a meaningful economic recovery is still a long way off for many Americans," said Valerie Wilson, EPI's Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy. "Pursuing a policy of full employment would significantly bring down the unemployment rate among people of color and would help ensure that all Americans share in our economic gains."


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