It’s commencement season around the country as over 1 million newly minted BA’s are handed out to hopeful young men and women. If the year were 2007 these youthful, well-educated people would have their choice of at least two jobs already in their grasp as they take their seats along with their degrees at their graduation ceremonies. This year however, according to the research director for the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Edwin Koc, the median number of job offers is zero.
No one knows how the economy will handle so many new job-seekers when those already in the job market can’t find jobs. To compound the problem many of these graduates are already saddled with student loans with interest. Those interest rates are the focal point of many of the recent political conversations discussing the plight of these graduates.
Now step in the voters, the parents of these young people who are wondering what kind of future their children will have if the economy does not kick into shape. Will my children have more or less opportunities than I had?, they are wondering.
“Students and their parents are aware that it’s no longer a direct jump from college to the labor market, and the first job may no longer be a career path job,” said Tamara Draut, vice president of policy and programs at the think tank Demos. “In terms of policy that helps that transition? Not really.”
According to an economist at the polling firm Gallup, Dennis Jacobe, the enormous numbers of people applying for jobs means that companies can hire people for the lowest salaries.
“You have young people coming in who lack experience, and employers, in many cases, are so flooded with applications … they’re able to get a good price and shop the market,” said Jacobe. He added the pessimistic prediction that there could be long-term negative consequences for those who have trouble getting into the job market early on.
As far as a governmental strategy for dealing with what some analysts have called a “huge, huge problem,” no solutions have been presented, partly because the extent of the problem is not known. Since 2009 there have been about 1 million college graduates entering the workforce each year, but they have disappeared into a black hole of databases and government labor reports. Policy makers simply don’t know the extent of the crisis, and therefore certainly don’t know what is needed to fix it.
“We really don’t know what’s going on; we only see it anecdotally,” said Phil Gardner, director of research for the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University.
“The kids who got caught up when all these forces came together are getting screwed because we have no idea how to deal with it.”