Class of 2014 isn't celebrating the job market

Syracuse University Commencement

Syracuse University graduates sit and read programs during the 2012 Syracuse University Commencement at Syracuse University at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. 

This weekend, college seniors and their families will hear a lot of stirring words from commencement speakers as graduation season gets into full swing.

What comes next for many will be a little less stirring: the job hunt.

"The Class of 2014 is a little bit better off than the few classes who came before," says researcher Alyssa Davis, co-author of a report, 'The Class of 2014: The Weak Economy is Idling Too Many Young Graduates,' for the Economic Policy Institute. "Since the recession, this has become the new normal, with a weak job market, stagnant wages, high unemployment and underemployment."

Unemployment for young college graduates is 8.5 percent, compared to 5.5 percent in 2007. For young high school graduates, the comparison is 22.9 percent to 15.9 percent.

Employers do plan to hire more than last year—an increase of 8.6 percent is projected in a survey of employers by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). But still, rates of involuntary part-time work, unskilled and low-wage work are up for college graduates. And, according to EPI's research, many more young people are now out of the labor force entirely—unemployed and not looking for work or attending school—than before the recession.

Management consulting firm Accenture recently surveyed Class of '14 members about their post-college expectations. Managing director Katherine LaVelle says, at least today's college students are prepared—having come of age as teenagers and early-twenty-somethings in an unforgiving economy that hasn't improved quickly or dramatically. She says many have picked their majors and internships with job prospects in mind.

"They've done their homework, they understand the marketplace they're in, and they're ready to tackle it," says LaVelle.

Still, says LaVelle, they're full of unrealistic expectations. Eighty percent think their first employer will provide a formal training program, and roughly the same percentage think they'll make more than $25,000-a-year. But the Accenture survey finds that only half that many graduates from the classes of 2012 and 2013 actually got training or earned that much.

And 46 percent of recent graduates consider themselves underemployed, working in jobs that don't require the education and training they received in college.

About the author

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

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