The job hunt: Class of 2010 college graduates confront a mean employment scene

Thursday, May 27, 2010
By Paul Martin

Robert Trigaux

Wake up and good morning. May is both the traditional month of college graduation, and articles that tell grads how tough it will be to find meaningful jobs. Looking at the round-up of assessments in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other national publications, the best that can be said is that 2010 looks better than 2009. But don’t celebrate just yet. (Photo: AP, Matt Rourke.)

According to Tampa’s MBA Career Services Council, on-campus recruiting at schools of business declined 65 percent during the fall job-interview season. And the overall jobless rate for college graduates under age 25 was 8 percent in April, up from 6.8 percent in April 2009 and 3.7 percent in April 2007, before the recession began.

Here are some key numbers, cited by this NYTimes story:

(1) Average starting salaries are down, and employers plan to make only 5 percent more job offers to new graduates this spring compared to last spring, when job offers were down 20 percent from 2008 levels, according to a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which tracks recruitment data.

(2) The same study found that 24 percent of 2010 college graduates who applied for a job have one waiting after graduation, up from 20 percent last year. But the average salary offered to graduates with a bachelor’s degree has slipped 1.7 percent from last year, to $47,673. (Keep in mind these are national figures.)

(3) Salaries for finance majors rose 1.6 percent, to $50,546, while those for liberal arts majors fell 8.9 percent, to $33,540. For graduates with computer-related degrees, salary offers rose 5.8 percent, to $58,746.

(4) Andrew Sum, an economics professor at Northeastern University, found that many college grads are finding jobs that do not require bachelor’s degrees, like retail clerk, office assistant or barista. Using federal labor statistics, Sum said only 51 percent of college graduates under age 25 were working in jobs that require college educations, down from 59 percent in 2000. He stated:

“If you work in a job that doesn’t require a college degree, you’ll make 30 or 40 percent less. One reason a lot of high school grads are having such a hard time is you have college grads willing to take jobs that high school grads used to get.”

(5) Many students who pursued degrees in what they thought were high-demand fields, like nursing and teaching, have discovered that openings in those fields are not plentiful. Many nurses who two years ago would have received multiple job offers ar e no longer offered RN positions — just lesser health support positions.

The Wall Street Journal’s pithy commentator Joe Queenan offered a few more sobering insights in this recent article:

“With the obvious exception of youngsters born during the Great Depression, no generation in American history faces more daunting obstacles. Economists theorize that this may be that very rarest of things—a generation that does not do as well financially as the generation that spawned it.”

Or this from Queenan: “Perhaps the biggest hurdle for freshly minted graduates is that they are now competing against last year’s grads: savvy, wizened pros that already have the most sought-after jobs locked up.”

Indeed, that theme is echoed in this NPR report that says the class of 2010 is competing with last year’s graduates still on the hunt, and with more experienced workers displaced in the recession.

Finally, this USA Today story offers some key financial advice for college grads, along with a reminder of how pleased parents are of their newly minted bachelors degree”

“You just graduated, and your parents are so proud of you. Which is a good thing, because there’s a good chance that you’ll be moving back in with them.”

Good luck, grads. And parents.

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