Why are recent college graduates facing an unemployment crisis?

Nikki Grey Contributor
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Young adults searching for their first job are becoming frustrated and blame the economy, but some high-powered search executives think the problem is young people.

John Dick, CEO of CivicScience, a digital polling and consumer research company said, “I think a lot of it is just a general aversion to competition… so when things look bleak, like they are now, there are more ways to prevent going into the job market.

“So you are seeing people looking for extended education opportunities instead of toughing it out, throwing out a thousand resumes and going into job interviews.”

Dick said that as an employer he puts a strong emphasis on experience on a resume. But if there aren’t any jobs, young people often feel stuck.

In a recent poll for Generation Opportunity, a non-profit organization that seeks to engage, organize and mobilize young adults in the political process, 77 percent of respondents, age 18-29, were either delaying or expecting to delay a major life change or purchase due to economic factors.

The poll highlighted young people’s uneasiness about the future and reported that many of them will delay buying a home, saving for retirement, paying off student loans or other debt, going back to school or getting more education or training, changing jobs or cities, starting a family or even getting married.

The polling company, inc./WomanTrend conducted the poll for Generation Opportunity and surveyed 600 young adults. The poll has a four percent margin of error.

(Conservatives may be able to harness youth disillusionment in 2012)

“The reason why this is important is…basically those who are 18-29 are sending a message that they don’t have the confidence in the economy… [or] in their own employment situation to make a decision,” said the president of Generation Opportunity, Paul T. Conway.

Thomas L. McLane, managing director of RSR Partners, an executive search and corporate governance recruiting firm, said that there are many opportunities to boost a resume – young people just need to take them.

“They should think of where opportunities might be even if not in the direction they might want to head,” McLane said. “They might go into a housecleaning service… or go to work scooping ice cream. Those who want to work will find out where the work is.”

McLane also noted that internships, even if unpaid, are a great way for young people to get their foot in the door.

“It shows they have a willingness to work,” McLane said.

John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., an outplacement consulting firm, said that young people usually get hit hardest in a tough economy.

“The companies have to take a chance on them to a greater degree than they do for someone who has been doing this for the last five years or ten years,” Challenger said about why employers may be more hesitant to hire a recent college graduate.

“We are at a time where young people coming into the job market now where unemployment is as high as it has been since the early ’80s, that’s difficult because certainly if you don’t find a job or you find a job that doesn’t use your skills or your potential that can lead to unhappiness,” Challenger said.

Taylor Griffin, a partner at communications consulting firm Hamilton Place Strategies, said that this will likely have political implications for President Barack Obama, because the issue of unemployment is so important to young people.

“By far and more than any other age demographic group, the youth voters choose unemployment as their primary concern,” Griffin said. “No other dynamic is even close.”

In a Gallup Poll conducted in April, 44 percent of Americans indicated that they believe it is likely that today’s youth will have a better life than their parents did. That number is less than it was during the 2008-2009 recession, and it is a record low for related Gallup polls since 1983.

According to Gallup’s U.S. employment measures for June, unemployment currently sits at 8.6 percent and underemployment – those working part-time, but who want full-time work or who are working below their skill-level- at 18.1 percent. With young adults remaining the least experienced and therefore the least likely to get hired, the situation looks pretty bleak. Challenger remains hopeful, however.

“I think the scare stories (about unemployment) are way too much,” Challenger said. “It’s always hard in the beginning. You fight your way into your career… you prove yourself… even if you are waiting tables you are learning skills… it is tougher, but…many (young people) have come through school working much harder than their parents did. They grew up with a hard work ethic.”