Unemployed graduates struggle to find jobs in the Covid-19 market
Julie Francis feels stagnant. She has been stuck, literally, in her parents’ house in Michigan since May. It’s not the worst thing in the world, she admits; many people suffered a worse fate in 2020. But for the past few months, the arduous job search process has worn out Francis, a graduate of Kettering University in electrical engineering. She logs into Indeed, Glassdoor and LinkedIn day in and day out to submit the same resume and a slightly tailored cover letter, crossing her fingers for a response.
“I didn’t have a preference. I was applying everywhere, ”said the 22-year-old, who graduated this year. “I kept a list of all the companies I spoke to, applied to over 200 locations, and interviewed five of them. “
To pass the time, Francis got a minimum wage job at a local apple orchard where she worked in high school. It was a far cry from his original outlook on postgraduate life. She had planned for a control engineer job in March, but when Michigan was put on hold, the company pushed back its start date to April. Then they changed it in June. On the Saturday before Francis’ third term in office, she was notified by email that her offer had been canceled.
“I was confident that I could find a job before the pandemic,” Francis said. “My school has a co-op program, so I graduated with three years of the relevant engineering program. That, along with having a decent surrogacy and being a woman in STEM, made me think I was in a great position.
Across the country, recent graduates are looking for jobs in one of the worst job markets since the Great Depression. The national unemployment rate is 6.7% in November 2020, against a low of 3.5% in 50 years last November. This number, however, does not show how devastating the battered economy is for most Americans, especially young adults – recent graduates of high school, business school, or undergraduate and master’s programs – with little or no full-time work experience. The unemployment rate for 15-24 year olds jumped to 27.4 percent in April and fell to only 11.7% in October.
Job hunting varies by region and industry, but depending on the graduates employed, getting a job often comes down to luck, timing, and a strong professional network. Meanwhile, some of their peers – who have degrees in nursing, communications, psychology and engineering, to name a few – are struggling to find well-paying work in their respective fields, which has a negative impact on their student loan repayments.
“I have received an average of three to five applications per day since March and have only had four interview requests, two of which were never answered,” said Kyle Arguello, a 24-year-old graduate. from the University of New Mexico, which is looking for jobs in academic counseling. “I have probably applied for about 1,400 positions in the metro Albuquerque area. That number sounds crazy, but that’s about all I did.
The anecdote of Arguello, and that of many others his age, is one of despair, of the realization that the uncertainty of the present trumps any career plan at five or ten years old. Although there is a plethora of job openings online, Arguello said he was either considered underqualified, competing with applicants with additional years of experience, or overqualified for positions of. entry level to minimum wage.
According to Michigan State Employment Research College Survey out of 2,408 employers, a quarter of respondents have stopped recruiting or canceled full-time job offers to new graduates. Likewise, around 25% of the companies surveyed do not plan to recruit from colleges, at least until 2021.
This diminished employer outlook, which mirrors that of the 2008 recession, can have lasting effects on the next generation of adults. This leads to a phenomenon that Georgetown economist Nicole Smith calls “a failed launch.”
“If you look back a generation ago, by the time people were in their late twenties, you would have had your first big job. You were probably making major purchases, like a house or a car, and getting married to start a family, ”Smith told me. “When you create an economy with negative triple-digit growth and double-digit unemployment, it is much more difficult for young people to launch a career.”
Smith pointed out that the extension of coverage for dependents to those aged 26 through the Affordable Care Act in 2008 was a sign of how young adults are increasingly dependent on their parents. When financial independence is delayed, it negatively affects long-term income, student loan payments, and milestones like owning a home or car.
Arguello and his girlfriend have considered leaving New Mexico because wages there are on average lower than in other states. But no matter where they end up, Arguello fears his own “failed launch” has started to impact his life trajectory. “Will I ever own a house because right now the positions I qualify for are barely paying enough to live on,” he said. “My girlfriend and I cried about it. Are we going to have a chance to live the life of the older generation? ”
The tough job market puts young adults in a tough spot, said David Grusky, director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Stanford University. Some have no choice but to enter the workforce and earn a lower-than-average salary, which could decrease their long-term earning potential. And as a result of starting at a lower salary, there is a “wound healing effect” over time.
“There is a lot of evidence to show that when you enter a downturn labor market, it’s not just about temporary financial damage. It’s sustainable, ”Grusky told me. “Not everyone has the financial resources or the wealth to wait for a better paying job.”
The pandemic-induced recession has not affected all sectors and workers alike. Research has shown that the Great Recession hurt black graduates more than their peers, widening the racial gaps that already exist in terms of unemployment and wealth. With many Americans staying at home in 2020, the hospitality and tourism industries, for example, have taken some of the biggest hits. Job losses from the pandemic also disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic Low-Wage Workers, especially women.
But as Covid-19 cases skyrocket across the country, even entry-level medical jobs can be hard to find. It was an unexpected turn of events for Amanda Pataky, a 22-year-old graduate of Adelphi University’s nursing program, who believed hospitals would allow nurses to bypass their board exams to work.
“As a new graduate you are at the bottom of the totem pole for a job because hospitals don’t have time to train you as the Covid numbers are on the rise again”, Pataky, who worked as a contract nurse at a hospital from New York in April, told me. “Experienced nurses are usually chosen. Some hospitals are also frozen, and I was told that even the people who worked there could not move to different units. ”
Six months after the virtual start, some unemployed members of the 2020 undergraduate class are considering graduate programs. They hope that an additional degree will give them an edge in the recovering labor market next year – and a potential increase in their wages. Others feel they have no other choice, pointing to a parallel with the influx of applicants for graduate studies in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
“From what I’ve seen, I’m worried that students will take more loans, only to reenter a compromised job market,” said Grusky of the Center for Poverty and Inequality. One of his main concerns is how the 2020 recession could exacerbate the wealth gap since 2008, which has lowered homeownership rates for blacks and led to significant drop in income in low income communities.
The next generation of young adults – especially those without family wealth – will struggle to reach materialistic milestones, he said, compared to their parents and grandparents. But this delay in independent adulthood might motivate them to view not only their careers, but social and personal priorities differently.
“The Great Recession was a disaster for student debt,” added Grusky. “It was disturbing that when the students graduated from graduate school, they couldn’t find jobs that paid enough to pay off their debt. “
However, most young adults have little choice but to focus on the present and the potential benefits of an additional degree. Matt Duffy, a graduate student at the University of Florida, is optimistic the extra year of schooling will help define his career path. “I try to take a look at the options available to me and realize that the traditional route is out the window,” Duffy, 22, told me. “If I can’t find a job because the places aren’t recruiting, I have to find a way to survive. ”
Through a recent class assignment, he cultivated a Facebook community with over 100,000 members called Born Zillennial, as a space for young adults born in the mid to late 1990s. The page’s sudden growth, mostly due to his TikTok promotion, inspired Duffy to rethink how he can monetize his digital skills.
“Before this course, I didn’t even know what a community leader was,” he said. “Now, with the growth of the group and the skills I learn in this course, I realize how much of a job a community leader can be. I could start making money on the page somehow, maybe do some consulting and add value to the group. “
While employment prospects for young adults appear particularly bleak, the current economic circumstances, while exhausting, have sparked mutual understanding. Many feel comfortable with shirk the idea of a “dream job” and opt for a job that pays the bills. “We’re all in the same boat,” Duffy said of the sentiments expressed on the Born Zillennial Facebook group. “Time will tell if it’s a plus or a minus that we start our careers without knowing what ‘normal’ was.”