Clara Ritger, USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent April 8, 2013
While those with a bachelor’s degree are still more likely to find a job than those without one, the jobs report released last week shows it is still an uphill climb toward employment for graduates.
Every day since February, Robert Good, 23, has followed his routine: Hold 20 new interactions via social media, post 15 résumés to job listings, make five personal contacts and compose three new cover letters.
Last week, he accepted a job.
“Every interview I got was through a personal connection,” Good said.
Good graduated with honors in December from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point with a double degree in business administration and economics. While in school, he founded his own business, Late Night Campus Delivery, which brought food to students from local restaurants that don’t deliver. Despite his successes, starting the job search meant waking up to a full inbox of rejections.
“Some of my friends have been out of school for a year and a half and still don’t have a job,” Good said.
On April 5, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report evaluating the job market for recent college graduates. The report indicates that in October 2011, the unemployment rate for 20-to29-year-olds who had graduated with bachelor’s degrees in 2011 was 13.5%. While the numbers have fallen since the peak at 17.6% in 2009, they remain higher than pre-recession rates.
The March jobs report released Friday showed that workers ages 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher were far less unemployed than those with lower levels of educational attainment. This trend held bachelor’s degree or higher recipients at 3.8% unemployment, compared with those with less than a high school diploma (11.1% unemployment).
Overall, the jobs report marked laggard progress for the USA, which added 88,000 new jobs in March compared with the 286,000 added in February.
Casey Mulligan, economics professor at the University of Chicago, said the numbers will only get worse.
“Next year will be really shocking when the health care regulations kick in,” Mulligan said. “Health care will weigh heavily on businesses.”
Mulligan said the public policy aimed at economic recovery is sending the wrong message.
The payroll tax increase — which ended the Bush-era tax cuts to bump payroll taxes up 2% — along with the anticipated rise in health care costs caused him to warn college students to take jobs that offer unemployment insurance.
“The tax on payroll tells businesses that they’ve got to find a way to do more with less,” Mulligan said.
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Shaun Chaudhuri, 20, studies economics at Harvard University. He said he has noticed his peers taking jobs they normally wouldn’t because they are skeptical about the economy.
“Hopefully by the time the freshmen and sophomores graduate, the economy will be better,” Chaudhuri said.
He said Harvard’s internship and networking resources are excellent and that students will do as many internships as they can to make more connections, which in turn could lead to permanent employment.
“If you work at a company for a summer and you do a good job there and you are well-liked, yes, then I would say there is the expectation that you would be offered a job,” Chaudhuri said.
That isn’t always the reality, as Good found out. Though he knows he can always start another business to keep himself busy, self-employment doesn’t offer the benefits a company can, he said.
“My mom is self-employed and we just don’t have health insurance because it’s too expensive,” Good said. “From an entrepreneur’s perspective it is a concern and it is something I’d like to have covered by my employer.”
As for economic recovery, Good shares Chaudhuri’s bleak outlook. Yet he sees it as a cultural problem.
“I almost feel like America lost some of its innovation,” Good said. “If we continue to innovate, then we’ll create as many jobs as we need to and we’ll be fine. But we really don’t strive to be the best anymore. We’re not No. 1 at anything, other than obesity.”
Clara Ritger is a Spring 2013 USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent. Learn more about her here.