Unemployed generation: another class of graduates face pandemic future

The job market is starting to roar, but for anxious seniors like Bao Ha, it’s a completely different reality.

“I probably applied for 130 or 40 jobs or something,” Ha says. “I didn’t even get an email or an interview.”

Ha soon graduated from Macalaster College in Minnesota, and between his anthropology thesis and trying to tick off items from his final year bucket list, he spent hours writing cover letters and browsing job vacancies. ’employment.

And now the self-doubt has started to creep in.

“Maybe my cover letter sucks; maybe my CV sucks, ”he says.

There are many indications that the labor market is returning: The employment report was a blockbuster, showing more than 900,000 jobs created with a strong recovery in previously struggling industries like the restaurant business.

The problem for students like Ha is that youth unemployment remains stubbornly high. Although much better than the 27.4% rate in April of last year, the unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds has actually increased, reaching 11.1% in March. This was significantly higher than the overall unemployment rate of 6%.

This is no surprise to Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute. When the economy collapses, the job market tends to be worse for young people, she says.

The reality is that there may be a lot of cheaper college graduates to hire, but in an economy still recovering from major layoffs, there are also a lot more experienced workers desperately looking for jobs.

“They will choose, other things being equal, more experienced people,” Gould says of employers. “Young workers are therefore left behind and many will find it difficult to start their careers.”

Erica Schoenberg would know.

She was part of the Class of 2020, who had the misfortune of graduating during the height of the pandemic.

A year after Schoenberg watched her virtual Trinity University graduation ceremony from the sofa in her living room, she’s back with her parents because she can’t find a full-time job.

Needing an income and something to occupy the day, she took a part-time job in a fabric store, and she also teaches at the Hebrew School on Zoom.

It’s a far cry from the publishing career she imagined, and Schoenberg is worried about the gap on her CV that is growing day by day.

“My mom said she thought I could put a recent graduate in place until the next few people did,” Schoenberg says.

The difficulties in finding that first job are magnified for young people of color, especially those without a university degree. Many worked in industries such as hospitality and retail, where millions of people lost their jobs.

Guadalupe Avalos is a senior at Cass Tech High School in Detroit. Last April, she was just a few months in a part-time job as a barista before the cafe closed and let her go. She didn’t even manage to master the espresso machine.

“I was just learning how to use this one,” she said.

Avalos asked about jobs in her neighborhood, such as a nearby pizza place and grocery store, but she continued to be turned down.

“Yes, there was a job at a McDonald’s, but it was 20 minutes away and I didn’t have that kind of transportation available to me,” she says.

Finding a job is important to Avalos: it could determine whether she is able to afford room and board at the university next fall.

“I really, really want to move out and go to a college dorm, but if I don’t have that money then I might have to stay home,” she says.

And this indicates a reality for many young people. Not landing that first dream job, whether in high school or college, can end up derailing the career experience of a lifetime.

Economist Gould says the 2008 global financial crisis could be an inaccurate comparison to the pandemic-stricken economy. But he showed how difficult it is to recover from the failure of starting your career on the wrong foot.

“It took many years for some of these young high school and college graduates to gain a foothold in the job market, take the path they were trained for, pay off their student loans, start a family, invest and buy a house, ”she says.

Ha in Minneapolis has more to do to find that first job. He is the first generation in his family to graduate from college, and soon his parents will attend his socially distant graduation to see him graduate.

And while Ha isn’t sure what his future holds, he still hopes all the student loan debt, hours of study, and hundreds of cover letters sent are worth it in the end.

“I didn’t give up,” he says. “I will continue to apply until something happens.”

Copyright 2021 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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