Employment for college-aged students hit all time low
Published: Sunday, February 12, 2012
Updated: Sunday, February 12, 2012 21:02
Graduation is at least two years away, but sophomore education major Alexandra Goheen said she realizes how difficult it might be to start her teaching career.
"I'm too scared to even think about it," Goheen said.
She isn't alone. While the latest overall unemployment numbers have improved slightly so far this year, young people—particularly those aged 18 to 24—are still largely out of work.
The unemployment rate for 18-to-24 year-olds is 16.3 percent, according to the Pew Research Center—which used numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to compile its data. The number of employed college-aged Americans is the lowest since the government began keeping tabs in 1948.
Meanwhile, the U.S. economy added 243,000 jobs in January, according to the bureau, slipping the unemployment rate to 8.3 percent from 8.5 percent in December—a three-year low.
Indiana's unemployment rate stood at 8.7 percent in December, according to the latest available data from the state's Department of Workforce Development. That's down from 9.2 percent in December 2010.
Sophomore social work major Deja Spalding, a former education student, said she knew someone who graduated college two years ago with an education degree and has yet to find a job. That persuaded Spalding, she said, to switch her major.
The national unemployment can fluctuate depending on a variety of economic factors, but the jobless rate typically hovers between ten and 20 percent for young adults, said Indiana State University economics professor Bob Guell.
"And the reason it's been in the teens is it's not always easy to find that first job," Guell said.
Since the 1980s, Guell said, it's been easier for students to secure loans to finance a college education. So for some young people, he said, it's more of a choice not to work than having difficulty landing a job.
For those on the job hunt, jobs in shopping malls and other "clean" retail sectors—such as clothing or electronics—are more widely available to young people, Guell said.
There are always fast-food restaurants, too. However, Guell said college students generally find flipping burgers unappealing—because the jobs might not directly tie into their academic pursuits and they prefer not to get dirty.
For all the lackluster economic data, Pew Research's recent study found young people are largely optimistic about their futures. Eighty-eight percent of those polled said they had enough money to meet their current needs or expected to in the future.
Pew conducted a telephone survey in early December with a sample of 2,048 adults aged 18 or older living in the continental U.S. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.9 percent.
The current generation's rosy outlook surprised Guell.
"The thing that is almost absent from [the college-aged group] is a decent fallback from a college education," he said.
Guell said a college degree serves as a "job market signal" for employers, who look for dedicated and trustworthy employees. Recently, the signal has shifted toward graduate-level education, which Guell said some employers value more than a bachelor's degree.
Taking advantage of connections to prior experience or career professionals are always a big plus, students said.
Sophomore business major Ivan Znika said he plans to pursue a career as "somebody's boss" in business administration.
Znika said he hopes to live in the Windy City right out of college, starting a career at the world's best-selling beer companies which he thinks is Corona Extra.