Despite Improvement, Grads Still Face Tough Job Hunt, Lower Wages

May 18, 2011
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Would that it were as easy today as it was in 1967 when Walter Brooke gave Dustin Hoffman a word of career advice: “Plastics.”

Ironically, one word still seems to sum up today’s career advice: “Anything.”

Even with the brightest employment prospects in years, barely a quarter of the 1.6 million about-to-be college graduates had a job locked down this spring.

The percentage hasn’t changed since last year, but, says the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the numbers themselves have. Last year, with doom and gloom everywhere, only 45.5 percent of seniors bothered to apply for jobs; this year, two-thirds have.

More students received job offers this year — 42 percent vs. 38 percent — and slightly more turned down an offer this year than last, says NACE, which surveyed 26,000 graduating seniors earlier this year.

Optimism has clearly improved. AfterCollege, a job board for college students and recent grads, surveyed its visitors last month finding 78 percent described the job hunt as “difficult” or “very difficult.” Last year 85 percent of the students said that.

Still, with graduation upon them, even the most optimistic of the holdouts will begin to heed that “anything” advice. By the time they doff those caps and gowns the percentage of seniors with jobs could reach 30 percent.

According to a just-released study of graduates from 2006-2010, within two months of graduation 51 percent of seniors found jobs. The study from Rutgers John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development didn’t break that out for the most recent grduates, but the report did note that 39 percent of those graduating in 2009 and 2010 took jobs paying “a lot less than they expected to earn.” The median salary for the first job was $30,000 for all graduates surveyed, but for those who grduated last year or in 2009, the median salary dropped to $27,000.

That might just explain the sighs mixed in with the “Pomp and Circumstance.” One poll cited by Time suggests that an astonishing 85 percent of graduates may have to move home because they can’t afford a place of their own.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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