College students fret that few jobs await them

Graduates look for jobs at a job fair for university students at City hall in Hong Kong, 26 August 2003.

Kai Ryssdal: All the ideas for getting jobs going again in this country, no matter where they come from, are crucial to one group that barely even knows what a healthy labor market looks like: Young people.

So that's where we'll start today on The Breakdown, our economy, one step at a time: The future. The unemployment rate among 20-to-24-year-olds is nearly 15 percent. Kids come out of college today, start looking for a job, and if they can find one, it's just plain lousy.

We sent Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman out to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore.


Mitchell Hartman: When Temesghen Habte started college, the country was in the grips of a subprime housing crash and millions of jobs were about to be erased from the economy.

Now, the 21-year-old philosophy major from Washington, D.C., is heading toward graduation.

Temesghen Habte: They were telling us when we were freshmen, 'You're very lucky to be in school right now, because by the time you graduate, the economy will have rebounded.' Obviously that isn't the case. The seniors especially, you find that they're extremely anxious.

But not necessarily tuning into the president's promises about job creation last night. Habte was sprawled out in front of a big screen TV in the student center -- and he was watching the speech alone.

Outside on the lawn, dozens of students were playing with puppies at something called 'Dog Day.' And senior Simon Hudes told me they didn't even know they'd scheduled it at the same time as the president's speech.

Simon Hudes: Dogs are really fun things to play with. President: not so much.

But just because students aren't focused on plans to fix the job market doesn't mean they're not worried. I found senior psychology major Joseph Sibilia-Young at a bike workshop in his dorm.

Joseph Sibilia-Young: I think it's kind of that unacknowledged elephant in the living room that we all know we're screwed. I'm a little scared; it's a good time to be a student, but a terrible time to be paying off debts.

Which leads fellow senior Dillon Ferenc to conclude:

Dillon Ferenc: Considering the economy's so good, I'm planning on going back to grad school.

In clinical psych, which will get him out, he thinks, in:

Ferenc: 2016, -17?

Hartman: Do you think the economy will be better by then, or you'll just be better equipped to cope with it?

Ferenc: Well, I'll definitely have better credentials to get a better-paying job. However, I really don't really know what to expect. Politics will change, the job market will change.

Junior Helen Mead wants to know the job market will change for the better next year.

Helen Mead: I'm going to be a teacher. So I really need a job when I graduate.

Mead was out throwing Frisbee with Ethan Bruno. He's a sophomore.

Ethan Bruno: From high school, I had no worries at all. And then with the stocks going down, my parents have been talking to me about money and how I need to earn a lot more of it.

Hartman: What are you hoping to do when you get out?

Bruno: No clue. Maybe business school? Law school?

One great thing about being young: You can often see unlimited possibility ahead.

Angela Parisi: Well, I came into college thinking I would be an international affairs major, and like work for the U.N.

This is sophomore Angela Parisi.

Parisi: And then that completely didn't work out for me. So now I am a media studies major.

Hartman: So what are you hoping to do?

Parisi: Something with music or art in the media. I have no idea yet -- we're just seeing what happens.

Which doesn't sit well back home.

Parisi: My family keeps telling me to think about the economy but I'm really not worried about it. I'm going to make connections and network here at school, and I think I'm going to get a job.

In Portland, Ore., I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.


Ryssdal: Once the president finished speaking last night, students from the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism spoke to CEOs from a variety of corporate walks of life to get their thoughts on what the president had to say. You can read what they had to say.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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