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“Many with
College Degree Find the Job Market Humbling” by Catherine Rampell
individual stories are familiar. The chemistry major tending bar. The
classics major answering phones. The Italian studies major sweeping aisles at
Wal-Mart. Now evidence is emerging that the damage
wrought by the sour economy is more widespread than just a few careers led
astray or postponed. Even for college graduates— the people who were most
protected from the slings and arrows of recession— the outlook is rather
bleak. Employment rates for new college
graduates have fallen sharply in the last two years, as have starting
salaries for those who can find work. What’s more, only half of the jobs
landed by these new graduates even require a college degree, reviving debates
about whether higher education is “worth it” after all. “I have friends with the same degree as me,
from a worse school, but be-cause of who they knew or when they happened to
graduate, they’re in much better jobs,” said Kyle Bishop, 23, a 2009 graduate
of the University of Pittsburgh who has spent the last two years waiting
tables, delivering beer, working at a bookstore and entering data. “It’s more
about luck than anything else.” The median starting salary for students
graduating from four- year colleges in 2009 and 2010 was $ 27,000, down from
$ 30,000 for those who entered the work force in 2006 to 2008, according to a
study released on Wednesday by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce
Development at Rutgers University. That is a decline of 10 percent, even
before taking inflation into account. Of course, these are the lucky ones— the
graduates who found a job. Among the members of the class of 2010, just 56
percent had held at least one job by this spring, when the survey was
conducted. That compares with 90 percent of graduates from the classes of
2006 and 2007. (Some have gone for further education or opted out of the
labor force, while many are still pounding the pavement.) Even these figures understate the damage
done to these workers’ careers. Many have taken jobs that do not make use of
their skills; about only half of recent college graduates said that their
first job required a college degree. The choice of major is quite important.
Certain majors had better luck finding a job that required a college degree,
according to an analysis by Andrew M. Sum, an economist at Northeastern
University, of 2009 Labor Department data for college graduates under 25.
Young graduates who majored in education
and teaching or engineering were most likely to find a job requiring a
college degree, while area studies majors— those who majored in Latin
American studies, for example— and humanities majors were least likely to do
so. Among all recent education graduates, 71.1 percent were in jobs that
required a college degree; of all area studies majors, the share was 44.7
percent. An analysis by the New York Times of
Labor Department data about college graduates aged 25 to 34 found that the
number of these workers employed in food service, restaurants and bars had
risen 17 percent in 2009 from 2008, though the sample size was small. There
were similar or bigger employment increases at gas stations and fuel dealers,
food and alcohol stores, and taxi and limousine services. This may be a waste of a college degree,
but it also displaces the less- educated workers who would normally take
these jobs. “The less schooling you had, the more
likely you were to get thrown out of the labor market altogether,” said Mr.
Sum, noting that unemployment rates for high school graduates and dropouts
are always much higher than those for college graduates. “There is complete
displacement all the way down.” Meanwhile, college graduates are having
trouble paying off student loan debt, which is at a median of $ 20,000 for
graduates of classes 2006 to 2010. Mr. Bishop, the Pittsburgh graduate, said
he is “terrified” of the effects his starter jobs might have on his ultimate
career, which he hopes to be in publishing or writing. “It looks bad to have
all these short- term jobs on your résumé, but you do have to pay the bills,”
he said, adding that right now his student loan debt was over $ 70,000. Many graduates will probably take on
more student debt. More than 60 percent of those who graduated in the last
five years say they will need more formal education to be successful. “I knew there weren’t going to be many
job prospects for me until I got my Ph. D.,” said Travis Patterson, 23, a
2010 graduate of California State University, Fullerton. He is working as an
administrative assistant for a property management company and studying
psychology in graduate school. While it may not have anything to do with his
degree, “it helps pay my rent and tuition, and that’s what matters.” Going back to school does offer the
possibility of joining the labor force when the economy is better.
Unemployment rates are also generally lower for people with advanced
schooling. Those who do not go back to school may
be on a lower- paying trajectory for years. They start at a lower salary, and
they may begin their careers with employers that pay less on average or have
less room for growth. “Their salary history follows them wherever
they go,” said Carl Van Horn, a labor economist at Rutgers. “It’s like a
parrot on your shoulder, traveling with you everywhere, constantly telling
you ‘No, you can’t make that much money.’ ” And while young people who have
weathered a tough job market may shy from risks during their careers, the
best way to nullify an unlucky graduation date is to change jobs when you
can, says Till von Wachter, an economist at Columbia. “If you don’t move within five years of graduating,
for some reason you get stuck where you are. That’s just an empirical
finding,” Mr. von Wachter said. “By your late 20s, you’re often married, and
have a family and have a house. You stop the active pattern of moving jobs.”
The assignment
will be graded as follows:
· 0 – entirely inaccurate / entirely incomplete /
outside of the assigned length o with incorrect format
o with 4 or more grammatical and mechanical errors /
clarity problems · 1 – mostly accurate / mostly complete / within the
assigned length
o with mostly correct format
o with 2 to 3 grammatical and mechanical errors /
clarity problems
· 2 – entirely accurate / entirely complete / within
the assigned length
o with correct format o with 0 to 1 grammatical and mechanical errors /
clarity problems

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