Job market 2012: Two outlooks for graduates, but which to believe?
North Carolina graduates from left, Nicole Campbell, Kristen Maye, Sabrina Officer and Imani Parks after their commencement in Chapel Hill, N.C. (Takaaki Iwabu / Raleigh News & Observer / May 14, 2012)
By Matt Pearce
May 14, 2012, 12:19 p.m.
It was the best of job markets, it was the worst of job markets.
On the heels of a big graduation weekend for many college graduates, the Associated Press released areport Sunday announcing the triumphant return of employment for outgoing seniors.
“To the relief of graduating seniors — and their anxious parents — the outlook is brighter than it has been in four years,” wrote the AP’s Scott Mayerowitz. “Campus job fairs were packed this spring and more companies are hiring. Students aren’t just finding good opportunities, some are weighing multiple offers.”
Apparently life after graduation is no longer a grinding abyss of perpetual pool-cleaning, the AP has found — a stunning turnaround from just three weeks ago, when the AP released an equally strident report announcing that “the college class of 2012 is in for a rude welcome to the world of work.”
Yes, the same Associated Press.
“A weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge,” the AP’s Hope Yen wrote three weeks ago. “Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that’s confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.”
So are college graduates better off than they’ve been in years, or are they trading Tolstoy for a mop and a janitor’s uniform? Which AP story should you believe?
The answer, graduates, is a little of both.
The two stories use different stats, and those in Mayerowitz’s good-news story are newer, but narrower, citing a steep decline in the unemployment rate this year for college graduates: “The unemployment rate for college graduates 24 and under averaged 7.2 percent from January through April. That rate, which is not adjusted for seasonal factors, is down from the first four months of 2011 (9.1 percent), 2010 (8.1 percent) and 2009 (7.8 percent.)”
Yen’s bad-news story uses broader stats that include “underemployment” as well as unemployment — a pretty vague measure that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says can’t be defined objectively or even accurately, but which attempts to paint a slightly more detailed picture of the way a weak job market can pinch struggling workers.
“About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years,” Yen wrote, also adding: “College graduates who majored in zoology, anthropology, philosophy, art history and humanities were among the least likely to find jobs appropriate to their education level; those with nursing, teaching, accounting or computer science degrees were among the most likely.”
The brighter side of things appears to be coming from the so-called 1%, Mayerowitz reports: “Colleges say the strongest growth in job offers has come from Fortune 500 companies, investment banks and consulting firms, all of whom make offers in the fall for jobs that don’t start until the summer.”
Both reporters cited ample evidence to back up their arguments that the job market is getting better/still terrible. (Neither talked about the chronically neglected demographic of high school graduates without a college degree, which typically faces twice the unemployment rates of Americans with bachelor’s degrees, whose unemployment rate was a scant 4% in April.)
Another word of caution: Mayerowitz’s feel-good story also neglects to examine the impact of heavy student debt on this year’s graduates, which may soon become everyone’s problem whether some college graduates are getting more jobs or not.
According to a New York Times analysis of Department of Education data, 94% of students now borrow money to pay for their bachelor’s degrees and have accumulated $1 trillion in student loans — which some think is creating another economic bubble, on par with the subprime mortgage crisis, that might come and destroy us all if it pops.
- New College Graduates Fare Better In Job Market As Earlier Classes Struggle (mbcalyn.com)
- Outlook Is Bleak Even for Recent College Graduates – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- What College Graduates Really Need: A Job (heritage.org)
- College Graduates Say They Are Not Well Prepared For The Job Market (keptup.typepad.com)
- Many College Graduates Have Always Been ‘Malemployed’ (mikethemadbiologist.com)
- Unemployment: 1 in 2 New Graduates Either Jobless Or Underemployed (inquisitr.com)
- AP Analysis: Half Of Recent College Grads Are Jobless Or Underemployed (npr.org)
- Technical college graduates landing jobs quickly (makingfutures.wordpress.com)
- Inspiring Words for New Graduates (wallstreetpit.com)
- 2012 college grads enter improving job market (mysanantonio.com)