POLITICO: Class of 2015 faces grim job hunt

Career College Central Summary:

  • Justin Lauria-Banta graduated in December from the University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and a major in economics. In an ordinary economy, the 24-year-old could expect a number of promising job options.
  • But as he fired off scores of résumés with nothing to show for it, Lauria-Banta got worried. So he went back to college to finish up a double major in finance. He wound up with just three interviews.
  • Lauria-Banta has since landed a job as an entry-level financial analyst for IBM in Rochester, Minnesota, at a modest starting salary of $40,000 per year, well below what he expected. And he counts himself among the very lucky ones. “There is still a lot of trepidation and uncertainty out there,” Lauria-Banta said. “I’ve got 10 or 15 friends coming out of business school and only a couple of them have jobs. And I only have a small loan, so I’m lucky. Some of them have $80,000 or $90,000 or more to pay off.”
  • That is pretty much the story of the college Class of 2015. Job prospects are better for graduates than at any time since the Great Recession crested in 2009 and began its fitful roll back. But they are still pretty bad. And nearly six and a half years into Barack Obama’s presidency, a promise he made in a 2009 address to a joint session of Congress remains unfulfilled.
  • “You don’t need to hear another list of statistics to know that our economy is in crisis, because you live it every day,” Obama said at the time. “But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.”
  • For members of the Class of 2015 — many of whom were in high school at the time of Obama’s speech — that is still far from the truth. A White House official noted that the unemployment rate for recent college grads is dropping and that Obama has pushed for lower college tuition and student loan debt relief, among other initiatives. “The president will continue to fight for policies that accelerate this trend,” the official said.
  • Still, according to research coming out on Wednesday from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for young college graduates is down to 7.2 percent, lower than it was during the worst of the Great Recession but still well above historical norms. And the “underemployment rate” for recent college grads — which includes part-time workers who want full-time jobs or have simply given up looking — is 14.9 percent, well above the 9.6 percent in 2007 before the recession began. According to another method of calculating underemployment that takes into account those with college degrees working in fields that don’t require them, the rate is actually 44.6 percent — miserable by recent standards.
  • “The class of 2015 should definitely be a little more optimistic than classes that came before because things are starting to look up,” said Elise Gould, one of the authors of the EPI study. “But we are still far from where we want to be. Graduates can expect entry-level wages that are lower in inflation-adjusted terms than they were 15 years ago. And when you have a period of sustained economic weakness, you have a lot of people competing for a limited number of jobs.”

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