I began working as a career coach and resume writer in 2000. In that year, the nonemployment rate* for young Americans (age 25-34) was 18.5%. In the most recent measure, which marks the year 2011, that rate has moved up to 26.6%, which puts the U.S. ahead of France, Japan, Britain, and Germany, all of which had higher rates in 2000.
According to an article in Common Dreams, the news gets worse when we look behind the numbers. The age group 25-35 is the only group to have a lower average wage in 2013 than it had in 2000. Part of the reason for this change could be that 40% of new college graduates are working in jobs that do not require a degree. As I’ve written in previous posts,7 of 10 jobs created in the past few years have been low wage jobs that pay $30,000 or less. What can young people do when low wage jobs are the only option?
We need to do more than just talk about a monthly employment statistic (30+ months of meaningless job growth) and the unemployment rate. Yes, the economy has generated private sector jobs. However, many are part-time, low paid, or benefit free. We need to talk about what jobs pay. We need good jobs.
* This rate included unemployment and those who have given up looking.
We frequently hear that college graduate earn more than those without degrees. That claim may be true, but it ignores an important trend: young college graduates wages are falling.
Daily Kos reports that the real hourly wages for young male graduates is $17.81 and $16.60 for young female graduates. As recently as 2009, males earned more than $20 and females more than $18. The article also points out that this group saw no real growth between the years of 2000-2007. Given the heavy debt many students have taken on, lower wages will mean that post-2000 college graduates will buy homes later – if they buy them at all. They will also probably spend less on cars and “luxuries.”
This article and the great graph accompanying it is further evidence that we have a wage problem that is much more significant than unemployment. New jobs will only be created when the economy expands, which is a function of spending. If people like new college grads are losing ground, the future of our economy and the future of the middle class is very dim.
What can you do if you’re a new graduate or someone who cares about a new graduate? Teach them to play the salary game. Don’t stay at one company and wait for a raise that will be small – if there is a raise at all. New grads should keep dusting their resume off every 18-24 months. Keep looking for a new employer who will pay more. It’s not fun to look for work. It’s worse to work for less – and less.
Travis Waldron of Think Progress reports on a on a disturbing trend: college graduates working low wage jobs. The statistics are a bit confusing, but the bottom line is that even college grads are now having trouble finding jobs that pay well. Waldron explains that most of the new jobs generated in the post-recession economy have been low wage, which means that will be all that is available for some college grads. He also notes that these better educated workers will push less qualified candidates out of the job market. This trend needs to be watched – and worried over.
A few days ago, The Chicago Sun-Times published a chart on unemployment rates for college graduates and a short article on the “edge” liberal arts majors enjoy. The overall rate of unemployment is 8.9%. The rates for liberal arts majors is a little higher, 9.2%. The accompanying article informs us that liberal arts graduates with strong analytical, reasoning, and writing skills are more likely to be hired. What the article doesn’t say is that students who major in science and business are less likely to be unemployed. The two majors with the lowest unemployment were elementary education (4.8%) and nursing (4%).
What’s the take away? Don’t get caught up in statistics. Whatever major a college graduate has, she faces a challenging job market. Rather than focus on macro statistics, the best way to find a job is to identify the skills you have that employers want. Control what you can control, and use your time to pursue jobs, not bad news.
For most experienced professionals, education is not an important selling point and should be placed after an experience or work history section. Employers tend to value relevant experience over education, and you should play that card when you have it.
Who should put education before experience? New college graduates and professionals who have obtained a degree to gain a promotion or change careers. This section of your resume should not simply list a degree and a few classes. Think about what you learned in terms of what the employer needs to know. When you find positions you want to apply for, review requirements from 5-10 job posting and identify key words to use in your resume. Highlight any skill or knowledge that you will be using on the job. Similarly, show how internships and projects have given you practical skills that you will be able to use on Day One at your new job.
Never present yourself as a student on a professional resume. Demonstrate why the time you spent in school gave you experience and skills that an employer should care about. Education is only important to the degree that it will let you bring value to an employer. Show that value.
“There are no jobs.”
No statement could be more false. There are always open jobs. The problem in an economy like the current one is that more people are looking for jobs than there are open positions. A recent article on hiring college graduates underscores this point. It cites the Department of Labor as projecting that 1.7 million students will graduate from college this year. It also claims that AT&T will add 20,000 employees without increasing head count (overall number of employees).
Those two statistics are significant in understanding job churn. If 1.7 million people graduate in a year, most will get jobs because new positions are created and existing positions open up. If AT&T is adding 20,000 without increasing its total number of employees, it means 20,000 workers have been laid off, quit, or retired. Job churn means that there will be openings. The challenge for people seeking a new job is to find these positions. It’s not easy. It is possible. Keep the faith.
Whenever we read or hear about China, it usually involves the words economy and booming. However, as the New York Times reports, new college graduates in China, like their counterparts in the U.S., are struggling to find jobs. The government supported higher education and increased graduates from 830,000 in 1998 to more than 6 million last year. There’s one big problem: Most of the new jobs in China’s factory-based economy don’t require a college education.
To make matters even worse, the increased number of college graduate means more people are competing for professional jobs, which has driven down salarys for those positions. College graduates are sometimes working for lower wages than factory laborers. Several academics quoted in the article point to these conditions as a source of potential instability.
This news is little comfort to young Americans (or Americans of any age) who do not have jobs. I believe the value of this story is to look below the surface of our media’s often too simple claims. China’s booming economy is based on the exploitation of labor and a totalitarian political system. This system seems doomed to collapse as Chinese workers become more educated and their expectations for a better life increase. How China deals with this problem will be one of the most important forces shaping the 21st century.
There are three stories about jobs in the Business section of today’s Chicago Tribune. One story says that older workers are finding more part-time and temporary jobs because companies value their experience. It also claims that they have skills that younger worker lack. A second story reports that international students with MBAs are having a hard time finding jobs. Many companies don’t want to go through the steps to provide these potential employees with H-1B visas. U.S. companies are looking to American MBA students. A third story says that undergraduate hiring is expected to be up 10% this year, which would be a good thing – if the forecast holds true.
I’m glad that the Tribune is focusing on jobs, but the news is so mixed that it’s hard to understand what they say about the broader employment picture. If older workers are only getting temporary work, will that continue or lead to full time jobs? Are American MBA students being hired more? Is the 10% figure for undergrads significant? These stories are interesting, but they don’t point toward any clear direction. I believe the employment figure will turn around only if the manufacturing and service sectors pick up for a significant amount of time. We haven’t seen that yet.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that salary for new college grades declined by .7% (last year the decline was 1.2%). That said, a chart accompanying the article shows why a college degree is a good investment. Students who majored in engineering, computer studies, economics, finance, math, and accounting received a starting salary between $48,000-$77,000.
In an economy that requires broad skills, college provides the tools most professionals need to get ahead. Some of my clients have been hindered in their careers because they did not have a bachelor’s degree. A college degree remains a good investment.
The Chicago Tribune reports on the value of their degrees. Most workers hired recently were high school graduates. Government forecasts say that the areas of greatest hiring will not require degrees.
Enough scare tactics. Every time there is high unemployment there will be stories like this one. Over time, college graduates earn more than high school graduates. People with graduate degrees have higher salaries than those with undergraduate degrees. There is no reason why that trend should change once this period of high unemployment is over.
The media loves this kind of story. However, it makes no sense. If most people could make a good living without going to college, they would do so. Most managerial positions require an undergraduate degree. Many professionals need graduate or professional degrees. When enrollment at colleges decline, then we can talk about the declining value of college degrees. Until that time, stories like this one are entertainment (Jerry Springer style) pretending to be news.