For the thousands of college graduates accepting a sheepskin this month, they enter a job market still struggling to recover from the recession that began before they were freshmen.
This year’s graduates are part of the sixth consecutive class to join an employment pool while the national unemployment rate is above 7 percent.
Christopher Sutzko, director of the King’s College Career Placement Center, said most companies still have not begun hiring at pre-2007 levels and those that are are being more selective. And for applicants who are fortunate to be hired, in many cases they’re not being paid as much as they would have been pre-recession.
A report issued by The Economic Policy Institute stated: “The weak labor market has been, and continues to be, very tough on young workers … Though the labor market is now headed in the right direction, it is improving very slowly, and the prospects for young high school and college graduates remain dim.”
The report also shows that for young college graduates, the unemployment rate is 8.8 percent, compared with 5.7 percent in 2007 at the start of the recession.
But, some area college students and officials say there are signs of improvement.
Many area graduates have been fortunate and have found jobs in their fields or accepted work in fields outside their majors. And others have opted to remain in the college setting by enrolling in graduate school, postponing the job search for a few more years.
AmeriCorps an option
Then there’s Jonathan Gilmore, a 22-year-old political science major at King’s College. He wants to attend law school, perhaps at Temple University, but before that he has decided to take off a year from school and better himself while helping others.
The Bear, Del., native has applied for a spot with AmeriCorps at a facility in Phoenix. He will interview next month. If accepted, he will work in a soup kitchen, volunteering his next year aiding the less fortunate.
The experience, he said, will help to mature him and make him ready to move on to the next chapter of his life. The tuition reimbursement the program offers was also enticing. Not having to find a job for his planned year break was also a motivating factor.
The economy — this region has had the highest unemployment rate in the state for three consecutive years — has “been in the back of my mind all four years,” Gilmore said. As he entered college he hoped by the time he graduated “it would have turned around,” he said. “But it didn’t; it’s still the same.”
His decision to take off a year and “find myself” seemed like the strongest option.
Options for some
Maria Kidron of Elysburg will be the Misericordia University valedictorian during commencement today. She’ll receive her Bachelor of Science degree in health science and Master of Science in speech-language pathology, but she’ll likely be without a job lined up when she makes her speech.
Unlike other graduates, she isn’t having trouble finding a job. She has plenty of possibilities, she said, but she’s being choosy and not settling for the first job that’s offered.
“I’m not under any pressure,” said Kidron, 23. While she knows the job search for graduates in recent years has been tough, she said she believes it’s improved this year in many majors. But for the speech-language pathology graduates, she believes the field has been strong throughout the recession and it’s alleviated many fears about graduating.
A student’s field of study plays a role in his or her success at finding a job.
Christine Shaneberger, 22, of Bath, who’s majoring in political science and international studies at Wilkes, said she’s chosen to apply to the Peace Corps and work internationally. That option, she said, “is probably the most direct route to a job.”
Options such as those Shaneberger and Gilmore are choosing are “great,” Sutzko said. “They’ll gain relevant work experience and get a feel for where their real interests may lay,” he said.