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PORTSIDE  April 2012, Week 4

PORTSIDE April 2012, Week 4

Subject:

1 in 2 New Graduates Are Jobless or Underemployed

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Date:

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 20:38:07 -0400

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1 in 2 New Graduates Are Jobless or Underemployed

By Hope Yen, 
Associated Press via Reader Supported News (RSN)
April 24, 2012

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/315-19/11110-1-in-2-new-graduates-are-jobless-or-underemployed

The college class of 2012 is in for a rude welcome to the
world of work.

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.

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.

An analysis of government data conducted for The Associated
Press lays bare the highly uneven prospects for holders of
bachelor's degrees.

Opportunities for college graduates vary widely.

While there's strong demand in science, education and health
fields, arts and humanities flounder. Median wages for those
with bachelor's degrees are down from 2000, hit by
technological changes that are eliminating midlevel jobs such
as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be
in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides, who can
provide personalized attention as the U.S. population ages.

Taking underemployment into consideration, the job prospects
for bachelor's degree holders fell last year to the lowest
level in more than a decade.

"I don't even know what I'm looking for," says Michael
Bledsoe, who described months of fruitless job searches as he
served customers at a Seattle coffeehouse. The 23-year-old
graduated in 2010 with a creative writing degree.

Initially hopeful that his college education would create
opportunities, Bledsoe languished for three months before
finally taking a job as a barista, a position he has held for
the last two years. In the beginning he sent three or four
resumes day. But, Bledsoe said, employers questioned his lack
of experience or the practical worth of his major. Now he
sends a resume once every two weeks or so.

Bledsoe, currently making just above minimum wage, says he
got financial help from his parents to help pay off student
loans. He is now mulling whether to go to graduate school,
seeing few other options to advance his career. "There is not
much out there, it seems," he said.

His situation highlights a widening but little-discussed
labor problem. Perhaps more than ever, the choices that young
adults make earlier in life - level of schooling, academic
field and training, where to attend college, how to pay for
it - are having long-lasting financial impact.

"You can make more money on average if you go to college, but
it's not true for everybody," says Harvard economist Richard
Freeman, noting the growing risk of a debt bubble with total
U.S. student loan debt surpassing $1 trillion. "If you're not
sure what you're going to be doing, it probably bodes well to
take some job, if you can get one, and get a sense first of
what you want from college."

Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies
at Northeastern University who analyzed the numbers, said
many people with a bachelor's degree face a double whammy of
rising tuition and poor job outcomes. "Simply put, we're
failing kids coming out of college," he said, emphasizing
that when it comes to jobs, a college major can make all the
difference. "We're going to need a lot better job growth and
connections to the labor market, otherwise college debt will
grow."

By region, the Mountain West was most likely to have young
college graduates jobless or underemployed - roughly 3 in 5.
It was followed by the more rural southeastern U.S.,
including Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee. The
Pacific region, including Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon
and Washington, also was high on the list.

On the other end of the scale, the southern U.S., anchored by
Texas, was most likely to have young college graduates in
higher-skill jobs.

The figures are based on an analysis of 2011 Current
Population Survey data by Northeastern University researchers
and supplemented with material from Paul Harrington, an
economist at Drexel University, and the Economic Policy
Institute, a Washington think tank. They rely on Labor
Department assessments of the level of education required to
do the job in 900-plus U.S. occupations, which were used to
calculate the shares of young adults with bachelor's degrees
who were "underemployed."

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. In
2000, the share was at a low of 41 percent, before the dot-
com bust erased job gains for college graduates in the
telecommunications and IT fields.

Out of the 1.5 million who languished in the job market,
about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous
year.

Broken down by occupation, young college graduates were
heavily represented in jobs that require a high school
diploma or less.

In the last year, they were more likely to be employed as
waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than
as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians
combined (100,000 versus 90,000). There were more working in
office-related jobs such as receptionist or payroll clerk
than in all computer professional jobs (163,000 versus
100,000). More also were employed as cashiers, retail clerks
and customer representatives than engineers (125,000 versus
80,000).

According to government projections released last month, only
three of the 30 occupations with the largest projected number
of job openings by 2020 will require a bachelor's degree or
higher to fill the position - teachers, college professors
and accountants. Most job openings are in professions such as
retail sales, fast food and truck driving, jobs which aren't
easily replaced by computers.

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.

In Nevada, where unemployment is the highest in the nation,
Class of 2012 college seniors recently expressed feelings
ranging from anxiety and fear to cautious optimism about what
lies ahead.

With the state's economy languishing in an extended housing
bust, a lot of young graduates have shown up at job placement
centers in tears. Many have been squeezed out of jobs by more
experienced workers, job counselors said, and are now having
to explain to prospective employers the time gaps in their
resumes.

"It's kind of scary," said Cameron Bawden, 22, who is
graduating from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in
December with a business degree. His family has warned him
for years about the job market, so he has been building his
resume by working part time on the Las Vegas Strip as a food
runner and doing a marketing internship with a local airline.

Bawden said his friends who have graduated are either
unemployed or working along the Vegas Strip in service jobs
that don't require degrees. "There are so few jobs and it's a
small city," he said. "It's all about who you know."

Any job gains are going mostly to workers at the top and
bottom of the wage scale, at the expense of middle-income
jobs commonly held by bachelor's degree holders. By some
studies, up to 95 percent of positions lost during the
economic recovery occurred in middle-income occupations such
as bank tellers, the type of job not expected to return in a
more high-tech age.

David Neumark, an economist at the University of California-
Irvine, said a bachelor's degree can have benefits that
aren't fully reflected in the government's labor data. He
said even for lower-skilled jobs such as waitress or cashier,
employers tend to value bachelor's degree-holders more highly
than high-school graduates, paying them more for the same
work and offering promotions.

In addition, U.S. workers increasingly may need to consider
their position in a global economy, where they must compete
with educated foreign-born residents for jobs. Longer-term
government projections also may fail to consider "degree
inflation," a growing ubiquity of bachelor's degrees that
could make them more commonplace in lower-wage jobs but
inadequate for higher-wage ones.

That future may be now for Kelman Edwards Jr., 24, of
Murfreesboro, Tenn., who is waiting to see the returns on his
college education.

After earning a biology degree last May, the only job he
could find was as a construction worker for five months
before he quit to focus on finding a job in his academic
field. He applied for positions in laboratories but was told
they were looking for people with specialized certifications.

"I thought that me having a biology degree was a gold ticket
for me getting into places, but every other job wants you to
have previous history in the field," he said. Edwards, who
has about $5,500 in student debt, recently met with a career
counselor at Middle Tennessee State University. The
counselor's main advice: Pursue further education.

"Everyone is always telling you, 'Go to college,'" Edwards
said. "But when you graduate, it's kind of an empty cliff."

___________________________________________

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on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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