I’ve written a couple of times before about Romney’s ridiculous lie that half of recent college grads can’t find jobs (the real number is somewhere between six and nine percent). And though I hate to beat a dead horse, he told the lie again twice in last night’s debate, with a twist that makes it worth revisiting.

Here are the quotes:

“With half of college kids graduating this year without a college — excuse me, without a job. And without a college level job, that’s just unacceptable.”

And then later:

“An economy with 50 percent of kids graduating from college that can’t find a job, or a college level job, that’s not what we have to have.”

There are a few things going on here. First, there’s the fact that in each case he repeated the original claim — that half of new college graduates can’t find work of any kind — before revising it by repeating it with the “college level” qualification. Whether this was an attempt to befuddle fact-checkers or an example of old habits being hard to break I don’t know, but in any event it had the effect of making his walkback hard to catch and hard to follow.

But in a sense it doesn’t matter, because Romney’s new, scaled back claim is no more defensible than the original. As I’ve noted in the past, the claim that half of recent college graduates “can’t find … a college level job” is false.

Quickly, here’s why.

According to the economist Romney is citing, about half of recent college graduates in 2011 (not “this year”) took full-time jobs that paid well, utilized their skills, and required a college degree after they left college. The rest of them — the half that Romney is referring to — can best be described as “everybody else.”

That “everybody else category includes the unemployed, who were something like six to nine percent of the total recent-graduate pool. It includes those who went on to grad school or law school or med school. It includes those who took entry-level positions in their field that didn’t require college degrees but would get their foot in the door for later jobs that would. It includes actors who decided to wait tables while going on auditions and poli-sci majors who took jobs with campaigns and writers who took paralegal gigs so they could pay their bills and work on their one-woman shows in the evenings.

It includes all sorts of people, in other words, most of whom have jobs, and many of whom are pursuing their careers in exactly the way they’d planned before going to college.

The reality is that a strong majority of recent college graduates found solid work after graduation, and that you can only claim otherwise if you count law students and publishing house copyeditors and off-Broadway actors as “kids that can’t find a college level job.”