For Many Graduates, Looking for a Career is Their Day Job

For all too many young adults who walked across the graduation stage in May their first job has required long hours sitting in front of a computer screen and filling out tedious paperwork. Worst of all, it pays nothing. So what is this thankless career path? Well, young graduates are finding that their first job is to find a job. POLITICO’s Willie Burnley reports:

[T]here’s general agreement among experts that people under the age of 30 have had a tougher time finding jobs since the economic downturn began.

According to an analysis of Labor Department data by Young Invincibles, a nonpartisan group focused on empowering 18-to-34-year-olds, people in that age category have an unemployment rate of 8.8 percent, compared with the national average of 6.2 percent. For African-American workers in the age group, the rate is as high as 18.4 percent.

“A lot of the jobs that were lost in the recession were higher-wage jobs, and those that have been recovered are not so,” said Sarah Audelo, policy director for the Center for American Progress’s Generation Progress. “So we’re seeing more young people with college degrees who are working minimum-wage jobs, as well as these higher unemployment rate numbers. It’s incredibly troubling.”

The inability of youths to find a solid economic footing after graduation ripples through both the larger economy and the lives of young adults. Part of the problem is the increasing indebtedness of college graduates, which leaves them with bills to pay, but no job to pay them.

According to data released by the College Board tuition, fees and room and board at a four-year public school has gone up from $13,558 at the start of the recession to $18,391 today. Over the course of college that’s an additional $20,000 that parents have to find or students have to borrow. While taking out loans may make college easier to pay off, it also comes with a significant price tag – and we’re not just talking dollars and cents. Andrew Dugan and Stephanie Kafka analyze the findings of a new poll for Gallup:

College graduates who carry a high amount of student debt appear to face long-term challenges that stretch beyond just their finances. A new analysis of Americans who graduated college between 1990 and 2014 shows that graduates who took on the highest amounts of student debt, $50,000 or more, are less likely than their fellow graduates who did not borrow for college to be thriving in four of five elements of well-being: purpose, financial, community, and physical.

The survey finds that as a graduate’s college debt gets higher they tend to like their job less, have higher levels of economic stress, like where they live less, and even have a reduced sense of good health and energy. What’s more, the poll shows that this “thriving gap” tends to linger in older graduates, even though their student debts are likely to be paid off. In other words, having large student loan debts not only reduces your financial, physical and purpose well-being now, it diminishes it for decades.

Although President Obama could not have succeeded without youth support and votes, his White House has largely ignored the problems facing this important constituency. Congressional Republicans are doing their best to fill in the gaps.

As Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a speech at Hillsdale College recently, “[Economic] insecurity has coiled itself around people from all walks of life.”

“Many [college graduates] did everything they were told was necessary to succeed. But now they sit in their childhood bedrooms under the weight of thousands in student loan debt, unable to start a career or a family,” Rubio continued.

Rubio, and others, have introduced bills that would begin to address some of the problems including finding ways to reduce the cost of college and incentivize the hiring of young adults. They can’t do it alone. They need our support. But more than anything, they need to be in the majority next year.