Image: Portrait of young man in graduation gown with father on campus (Thomas Barwick-Digital Vision-Getty Images)
Hey you, the know-it-all who laughed at college grads throughout the recession and called their degrees worthless: Let us know what the verdicts were on "Judge Joe Brown" today.

Despite the lusty anti-intellectual choruses that served as the soundtrack to the recent economic downturn, an increasing amount of evidence shows that a college degree or advanced version thereof actually comes in pretty handy.

Yes, there were more master's degree and doctorate holders on food stamps during the downturn than ever before, but they still made up just 1% of aid recipients and are now benefiting most from the ensuing economic recovery.

About 1.1 million more workers with master's, doctoral and professional degrees said they had jobs in 2012 than when the job market bottomed out in 2010. That's a 6.7% increase that, according to the Labor Department, is the fastest employment gain of any level of education during that span. Workers with bachelor's degrees didn't fare too badly, either, as their employment rate increased 5% from 2010 to 2012.

That's helping boost recent jobless numbers, as first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell by 5,000 last week to 330,000. That's the lowest level since January 2008. That doesn't mean everybody's getting back into the game, though. The 36% of American workers over 25 with a high school education or less started losing jobs in 2007 and just haven't stopped. About 767,000 fewer workers reported having a job in 2012 than they did in 2010, and 2 million workers in that demographic left the job market altogether during that span.

"Relative demand for highly educated workers is increasing," Jonathan Rothwell, senior research associate at the Brookings Institution, told CNNMoney. "There's a long-run shift in the economy toward more professional occupations, and it's mostly at the expense of blue-collar occupations."

Though many overqualified college graduates took low-wage jobs during the recession, Rothwell noted that over-educated workers earn 37% more than under-educated workers in the same field, and nearly always have lower unemployment rates. As of December, the Labor Department's unemployment rate for workers with a bachelor's degree or higher was 3.9%. Among high school graduates with no college experience, that rate jumped to 8%, while 11.7% of workers without a college degree went jobless.

Again, college degrees don't guarantee employment. They just make it a whole lot likelier.

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