Unemployment high among new college graduates

Class of 2013 strives to overcome tight job market

Recent college graduates of 2013 aspire to begin their careers right away, yet many young job seekers are facing increasing bouts of unemployment into their mid-20s. Limited opportunities due to increasing graduation rates and a depleted job market are leaving Minnesota graduates in a difficult spot.

Sun Thisweek and the Dakota County Tribune reporters will be writing additional stories in the coming weeks about the state of the economy. Send story ideas to tad.johnson@ecm-inc.com.
Sun Thisweek and the Dakota County Tribune reporters will be writing additional stories in the coming weeks about the state of the economy. Send story ideas to
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Harsh odds are a reality for the class of 2013.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, eligible workers ages 20-24 had the highest rate of unemployment in the country as of May 2013 at 13.2 percent. College graduates fared better, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, at 12.6 percent in 2011. This compares to the national average of 7.6 percent unemployment.

It is difficult to ascertain unemployment rates for this age group because many end up employed in unrelated, part-time jobs. About half of all college graduates in 2011 were working full time in their related occupation, according to the CPS study of 60,000 households by the U.S. Census.

Katrina Benson, a 2013 graduate of the University of Minnesota, is currently searching for full-time work. Benson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and is looking to teach English to Spanish-speaking adults. Currently, she survives off her part-time job.

When asked what her advice was to recent grads, Benson said: “Persevere. But it’s hard for me to say that because the job search can get you down. It’s discouraging.”

Benson has many friends who are facing the tough job market.

“I have one close friend who accepted what she thought was a part-time job,” Benson said. “(It was) not in her field, just a summer job. It turned into 50 hours a week and she wasn’t anticipating that.”

Labor analysts say steep unemployment rates for college graduates are based on limited opportunities due to the 2008 recession, combined with a highly competitive and saturated job market.

The impact of the nation’s recession has been a huge blow to young job seekers.

In 2007, 87 percent of recent college graduates were participating in the workforce. As of 2011, this had dropped to 85.2 percent.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 83.9 percent of 2011 graduates with a bachelor’s degree were participating in the workforce, compared to 91 percent of recent recipients of advanced degrees.

An advanced degree can also improve the chances of finding work in a related field of study. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2011, 43 percent of recent bachelor’s degree graduates were working in a related field, compared to 68 percent of advanced degree recipients.

Field of study is another factor that can help or hurt job seekers.

In 2013, the most in-demand college majors were business, computer and information science, and engineering, according to a nationwide survey by CareerBuilder and Harris Interactive. Many people graduating with degrees in other fields are finding it difficult to reach employers.

Benson noticed a similar trend in her classmates.

“I know other people who graduated from the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota are finding a hard time getting work, but people who graduated with engineering and computer science are finding jobs easier,” she said.

Rising numbers of college graduates are creating an overly saturated market for unemployed 20-somethings.

According to the National Information Center for Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis, there are more people with college degrees working in the labor force than ever in Minnesota.

In 2011, 38.1 percent of Minnesotans between ages 25-34 had a bachelor’s degree or higher, as compared to 33.78 in 2007.

A recent study done by The Center for College Affordability and Productivity found that the projected number of graduates exceeds the actual or projected growth in high-skilled jobs, indicating the probable worsening of unemployment for recent graduates in future years.

Although the market appears to be filled with unused diplomas, unemployment rates universally decline by education level.

Vince Thomas, the internship director at Gustavus Adolphus College, says a college degree prepares students to do more than just obtain full-time employment.

“I believe you will be a better parent, friend, citizen, neighbor, and you will be more likely to be a volunteer with a college degree than without,” Thomas said.

While attending college, young people can prepare themselves for their impending job searches. Thomas says that college students can take on internships in order to present themselves to employers as a candidate who has both knowledge and experience.

Employers value student internships because it indicates that they do not need to spend excessive time integrating them into the workforce. Hiring managers are “looking for evidence of work readiness. The most convincing (evidence) is the ability to perform in a professional environment,” Thomas said.

Mark Jacobs, Dakota County’s Workforce Development director, says there are three key ways that young people can find their way out of this struggle.

“It is really important to network,” he said. “Have an up-to-date resume and tailor it to the job you are looking for. Also, don’t rely on doing everything on your computer. The whole idea of sending out 100 resumes a week isn’t effective – you want to have a targeted job search.”

Cynthia Favre, the director of Career Development at Gustavus, says that social media networking is a key to job searching.

“If you’re not on LinkedIn, employers will probably not view you as a serious candidate,” she said.

Favre also indicates that volunteer work, joining professional associations, and learning how to express skills and qualities in an interview are all necessary.

Favre has witnessed the trends of unemployment in recent college graduates.

“I saw the same that others saw in 2009 in 2010,” she said. “It was really challenging for candidates.”

Favre predicts a more positive outlook for young job seekers.

“2011 was a bit better and 2012 a bit better,” she said. “The day before graduation in 2012, more (students) had jobs and fewer had temp jobs. In 2013 I think the trend is continuing, just based on the number of employers who are calling for opportunities to connect. Those are signs that things are picking up.”

Dakota County’s unemployment rates fall well below the state and nation at 4.7 percent.

Many professionals, including Thomas, Jacobs and Favre, agree that Dakota County is a promising area for graduates to seek employment opportunities.