All Dressed Up And Nowhere To Work

May 16, 2012 | | POLITICO |

President Barack Obama and other members of the administration may be giving warm advice to freshly minted graduates at commencements across the country, but the reality is the job market is now much colder.

More than a million new bachelor degree holders are about to begin to break into an economy that doesn’t have enough jobs to support the people who already were in it, and will struggle to absorb them. They’re already facing the prospect of huge student loans — with interest rates for those being the subject of most of the political conversation about new graduates. Things don’t look much better for their hopes of earning incomes so they can start making the payments on those loans, or much else.

Graduates in 2007 walked through their campus gates with more than two job offers in hand, according to Edwin Koc, research director for the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The median number of offers for a member of the Class of 2012? Zero.

The situation cuts to the heart of a critical question for many voters with children: Will their opportunities be greater than mine?

“Students and their parents are aware that it’s no longer a direct jump from college to the labor market, and the first job may no longer be a career path job,” said Tamara Draut, vice president of policy and programs at the think tank Demos. “In terms of policy that helps that transition? Not really.”

The polling firm Gallup reported last week that almost a third of 18-to-29-year-olds are “underemployed,” meaning that many new college grads are stuck with part-time, underpaid jobs that don’t utilize the skills from their degrees.

That figure has gotten slightly worse over the past year, and it’s more than double the level of underemployment for other age groups. The desperation among younger Americans to find full-time work has grown over the past 12 months, Gallup said, based on its survey of more than 2,800 18-to-29-year-olds.