Grads face tough prospects amidst slow job recovery

18 02 2011
Editor’s note: The following story was originally published by The Whitworthian for the Feb. 14, 2011 print issue.  The online version was published Feb. 15, 2011.

By Kyle Kim

Photo courtesy of Charline Tetiyevsky

Economists may have called an end to America’s Great Recession, but employment still remains a struggle for many.

2010 yielded the highest annual unemployment rate in 28 years at 9.63 percent, according to Labor Department data.

Additionally, 2010 marked the worst annual unemployment rate for people 25 years and over with a bachelor’s degree since the government began recording data in 1992.

But despite high annual unemployment rates, labor statistics show degree holders are the least likely group to face unemployment in terms of educational attainment.

Degree holders have traditionally faced half the rate of unemployment compared to the national average. In January, those with a bachelor’s degree had a 4.2 percent unemployment rate compared to the national average of 9 percent.

Though college graduates are less likely to face unemployment, the amount of jobs added to the U.S. economy have not been enough to counterbalance the currently 14 million unemployed along with those newly entering the workforce.

Moreover, the Labor Department data only considered degree holders who were 25 and older, which does not necessarily consider recent graduates entering the workforce.

An information specialist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics said there is no statistical data offered for unemployment for recent graduates, specifically young adults ages 18 to 24.

High unemployment in a recovering economy may seem contradictory, but economics professor John Beck at Gonzaga University said the predicament of high unemployment in an economy out of recession makes sense.

Employment rates tend to be a lagging indicator, Beck said. Even if the economy first starts to recover with increased figures in sales and GDP, Beck said employers are going to be reluctant to hire new employees.

But amidst the reality of a tough job market for today’s young degree holders, university graduates of 2011 are expected to face a somewhat better job market than 2010 graduates.

A study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 24 percent of 2010 college graduates have jobs awaiting after gradua tion, an increase from 20 percent in 2009.

Additionally, employers who participated in NACE’s job outlook survey are expecting to hire 13.5 percent more graduates in 2011 than they hired in 2010.

For real job growth to happen, the amount of new added jobs has meet the rate of new people entering the labor force as well as those currently unemployed who are looking for work, Beck said.

Graduate unemployment in Washington State

When Whitworth University alumnus Chase Talbot graduated in May 2010 with degrees in biochemistry and biology, he did not anticipate he would end up briefly working as a door-to-door vacuum salesmen the fol lowing summer.

“I worked for them for two days before I quit,” Talbot said.

Since graduation, he has applied to various laboratory technician jobs as well as sales jobs at Best Buy and Costco, although the one industry he stayed away from was food services.

“I guess my ego told me that [working in food services] was baloney,” Talbot said. “I wanted to find something better.”

Almost a year later, he is living in Spokane with no job, depending on the money he has saved to pay his rent. His savings dried up this month, leav ing him to depend on his inheritance money.

The last job opening he applied to was the In land Northwest Blood Center in December – a po sition that only required a high school diploma.

Talbot said he felt confident about getting the job considering he had two college degrees along with work experience in chemistry laboratories. But the blood center e-mailed him saying they ultimately did not decide to hire him.

Now he has given up looking for work altogether in Spokane as he has only a few months left before he leaves the area.

“If I was not going back to school at this point, I would be a lot more wor ried than I am [about finding work],” Talbot said.

But there is a silver-lining for Talbot: He is ultimately planning to be a dentist and was accepted to the University of Washington School of Den tistry for his graduate degree this past December for the following fall. He said he always planned to go to graduate school but was trying to find work in the meantime.

Talbot said he thinks the combination of the U.S. job market and his in ability to stay in Spokane for the long term were largely the reasons of his inability to find work.

Despite Talbot’s inability to find work, state data shows a much more worrisome picture for young adults without college experience.

Young adults, ages 18 to 24, face the greatest difficulty in gaining employment out of any age group in Washington State, according to a government study released by the Washington State Workforce Board in December.

The unemployment rate for Washington state degree holders followed the national average at 4.2 percent in 2010 while young adults without high school diplomas were jobless at a rate of 38.6 percent the same year.

In Washington State, an average of 22 percent of young adults who have been looking for work in early 2010 were unemployed – over double the rate compared to the 10 percent average for state residents ages 25 to 64 years.

Graduate unemployment in Europe

Internationally, unemployment for young adults was on average three times higher than that of adults, following statistical trends in the U.S. According to an International Labour Organization report released in late 2010, 17.7 percent of youth in developed countries were unemployed in 2009, the highest estimate recorded.

While recent graduates in the U.S. are experiencing a weak job mar ket, college graduates particularly in Southern Europe face harsher realities. The Baltic States, Ireland, Spain and Italy have suffered considerably in their labor markets, according to a report released by the European Commission for 2010. The findings also revealed those transitioning from school to the work force will be particularly vulnerable, with the average number of unemployed for those under 25 years at 20 percent.

Protests recently erupted among Italy due to economic pressures from an aging population, burdening social security system and lack of jobs for Italy’s younger generation. According to Italy’s National Institute of Statistics, 2010s third trimester showed an unemployment rate of 25.7 percent for young adults ages 15 to 24 with a bachelor’s degree and higher.

“Unemployment among young Italians is one of the main issues in Italy,” Andrea Gallazi, 24, said.

Gallazi left for Australia in 2009 for graduate school partly to escape the economic situation his generation faces in Italy. He received a Master’s in International Business last December from Macquarie Univer sity in Sydney. After sending over a hundred job applications related to his degree in Australia, Gallazi has given up trying to get a work visa. He plans to go back home near Milan this April.

“I would like to create my own career now from all my efforts in the past year–to build up to something,” Gallazi said. “It’s kind of depressing.”

Equipped with a graduate degree, international experience and work ing in an English-speaking country, Gallazi still remains hopeful that he will find work in Italy.

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