David Wessel of the Wall Street Journal provides a new report which suggests the job market for recent grads may be worse than thought, if that’s possible.

For Recent Grads, Good Jobs Really Are Hard to Find

Anecdotal accounts of young college grads working as baristas, bartenders or retail clerks are widespread, provoking questions about the economic logic of going to college, particularly if doing so means taking on a lot of debt.

Now come some economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York with evidence that college grads between 22 years old and 27 years really are finding it tougher to find jobs that require a bachelor’s degree than has been the case in the past.

“Such difficulties are not a new phenomenon,” the economists say in an essay published in the New York Fed’s latest Current Issues. “Individuals just beginning their careers often need time to transition into the labor market.”

But that transition has been becoming more difficult for the past 15 years, they say. “Job prospects for recent college graduates have indeed worsened.”

Using Census Bureau and Labor Department data, the economists find that the fraction of college grads between 22 and 27 who were working in jobs that don’t generally require a bachelor’s degree rose to 46% during the 1990-91 recession, fell significantly during the 1990s boom and was down to 34% by 2001. This “underemployment rate” rose sharply after the 2001 recession and rose further after the 2007-09 recession, the economists find. It stood at 44% in 2012.

Underemployment is most acute for those immediately out of college: 56% of 22-year-old college grads in 2009-2011 were working in jobs that didn’t require college degrees, substantially higher than in 1990 and in 2001. Historical data suggest many of them will find better jobs before they turn 30.