Share this article

print logo

Tepid job market still hurting grads

Nick Hintz, 27, earned bachelor's and master's degrees and has a job.

Cleaning typewriters. Part time.

Hintz is an unwilling statistic. He's one of the four out of five college graduates from 2006 to 2011 who haven't found full-time jobs on a firm career path.

In fact, just over half of those graduates have found any full-time work, according to a Rutgers University report released last week.

The report is certain to be unsettling to the 2012 graduates pouring off college campuses this month.

They're entering a slow job market recovery that has left behind many recent college graduates, as well as women and minorities. While other reports show that the 2012 graduates are facing the best job market since the Great Recession, the Rutgers study shows they'll be fighting a lot of pent-up competition for the openings.

Hintz, of Olathe, Kan., prepared for a career in human resources, but he has come up empty in his job search -- despite having a graduate degree from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, human resource job experience from two internships and a temporary contract job, and networking with human resource groups in the Kansas City and Dallas areas.

"I'm still looking in human resources, since I have the wonderful education I think I should use," Hintz said.

Recent research finds that even those young workers who have been fortunate to land employment in their chosen fields have taken pay hits.

Starting salaries for 2009 to 2011 graduates were 10 percent smaller than pay for 2006 to 2007 graduates, according to the survey by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers.

"The cream of the crop of America's youth -- believe the American dream of upward mobility may have stopped with them," said Cliff Zukin, a professor and co-author of the study.

More than one in four recent graduates are living with their parents to save money, the report said.

It also found that more than half of the graduates are struggling to pay off student loans that averaged $20,000. And for the 20 percent of college graduates who have gone on to enroll in graduate schools, debts are averaging $30,000.

Hintz's education debt is far steeper: $120,000.

If there's a bright note to his underemployment, the fact that he's earning so little lowers his loan repayment formula, he noted. That is small comfort, of course. The loans will still come due.

A separate survey, released last week by Gallup, said one-third of 18- to 29-year-olds were unemployed or underemployed, a measure that includes those who held part-time jobs but wanted full-time work.

The Gallup poll found that young adults were more than twice as likely as workers in older age groups to be underemployed in April.

"Employers appear to be hiring younger Americans in greater numbers on a part-time basis this year than last," the Gallup report said. "This not only hurts them temporarily, but deprives them of the experience they need to get a better job in the future."

Many young people have turned to internships to get toeholds in the work world, but the National Association of Colleges and Employers estimated that up to half of the 1.5 million internships in the United States this year are unpaid.

"We need the economy to get moving as soon as possible, because we know that graduating into a recession can lower a generation's wages for years to come," said Rory O'Sullivan, policy director at Young Invincibles, an advocacy organization for 18- to 34-year-olds.

Private industry employers have been slowly adding jobs for 19 months. A net gain of 130,000 jobs was reported last week for the month of April. Meanwhile, though, the public sector lost 15,000 jobs in the month, continuing a nearly four-year-old cutback trend.

Those government job cuts have eliminated many jobs held predominantly by women and African-Americans.

"The disproportionate share of women and African-Americans working in state and local government has translated into higher rates of job loss for both groups in these sectors," a report by the Economic Policy Institute said.