Half of New Graduates Jobless
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 19:04
According to The Associated Press, a recent analysis of government data indicates that one in two new college graduates are jobless or underemployed, holding positions such as retail clerks or waitresses that do not require a college degree.
By region, the numbers are slightly worse in the Mountain West, where three in five young college graduates are struggling to find work. The rural Southeastern U.S. and the Pacific closely follow the Mountain West region in having higher unemployment rates among recent graduates.
On the other end of the scale, the Southern U.S., anchored by Texas, was most likely to have young college graduates in higher-skilled jobs.
Young Americans graduating from college are facing the grimmest job prospects in more than 10 years. In addition to The Associated Press statistics, an analysis of a 2011 Current Population Survey shows that roughly 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent of new graduates under 25 years of age last year were jobless or underemployed. In 2000, that percentage was 41.
The figures show that the majority of jobs available to graduates required nothing greater than a high school diploma. Openings for waiters, servers, receptionists and other such occupations outnumbered higher-skilled jobs for engineers, physicists and computer professionals by more than 25 percent. The graduates that faced the bleakest job prospects were those in the fields of the humanities and anthropology. Complicating the picture is a weak labor market, as well as the increasing number of graduates with bachelor’s degrees.
Many Smith students are worried by these bleak figures.
“I’ve always known it would be difficult to find jobs after college, but I’m more worried now since just about everyone seems to have the same background and major as me,” Sophie Kim ’12, an economics major, said.
The Associated Press found that while there was still strong demand in science, education and health fields, “arts and humanities flounder.” Even so, the article’s counterpoint to this argument, Kelman Edwards Jr., was a biology major who was only able to find a job in construction after searching for work in that area for five months. He applied for positions in laboratories but was told they were looking for people with specialized certifications. “I thought that me having a biology degree was a gold ticket for me getting into places, but every other job wants you to have previous history in the field,” Edwards said.
Median wages for those with bachelor’s degrees are down from 2000, hit by technological changes that are eliminating mid-level jobs such as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides, who can provide personalized attention to senior citizens as the U.S. population ages.
With the lack of opportunities given to new college graduates, the choices that young adults make earlier in life – level of schooling, academic field and training, where to attend college, how to pay for it – are having a long-lasting financial impact.
“You can make more money on average if you go to college, but it’s not true for everybody,” says Harvard economist Richard Freeman, noting the growing U.S. student loan debt surpassing $1 trillion. “If you’re not sure what you’re going to be doing, it probably bodes well to take some job, if you can get one, and get a sense first of what you want from college.”
With this news, the U.S. college class of 2012 is in for a rude welcome to the world of work.