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"Make Me Smart” Newsletter

The Class of 2024 is looking for work — but it might not be easy to find

Ellen Rolfes and Catherine Orihuela May 24, 2024
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Put on Vitamin Cit’s graduation season. But finding a job may be a little bit harder for the class of 2024. The millions of people getting their degree this year face a labor market that’s unfriendly to the young and inexperienced. 

The premium for college-educated workers has shrunk. The unemployment rate for young people ages 16-24 has historically been 2.6 times higher than people ages 25 and older, but getting a college degree has typically made it way easier to find work. That labor market advantage has decreased, Bloomberg reported last week. The unemployment rate for recent grads with a bachelor’s degree is about 4.7%; for peers without a degree, it’s 6.2%. About half of all recent grads were “underemployed,” working jobs that didn’t require a degree or make meaningful use of college-level skills.

Employers are generally skeptical of younger applicants.Almost 40% of employers say they’ve avoided hiring recent college grads, according to a survey published last December. A majority said young people struggle with workload, tardiness and deadlines. Oh, and they dress unprofessionally for interviews — ouch. Another survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found college grads also have ambitious salary expectations, seeking near six-figure offers. According to ZipRecruiter, recent grads pull down much less, on average $62,000 per year. 

Demand is relative. Job prospects depend on industry. Young people looking for a job in education or health care will have an easier time, but grads wanting to work in tech and consulting may face stiffer competition for fewer positions. Despite the fact that many companies are moderating their numbers of younger hires, they’re still rewriting their entry-level job postings to line up with what Generation Z job seekers want — things like the promise of quick promotions, transparent salary information and perks that go beyond health care and retirement plans.

Smart In A Shot

A product photo of the spoon, which is metal with a large plastic handle, like an electric toothbrush.
(Courtesy Kirin)

Consuming too much salt is a global problem, according to the World Health Organization. In Japan, adults consume about 10 grams of salt per day, double the max amount recommended by WHO. But low-sodium diets can be, well, tasteless. 

Japanese scientists Homei Miyashita and Hiromi Nakamura, in partnership with beer maker Kirin, say they have a solution: a spoon that makes food taste saltier than it is.  

The Electric Salt Spoon passes a current through food, drawing sodium molecules to the tongue to create a greater sense of saltiness. Kirin plans to sell a limited run of 200 spoons online and in select Japanese stores this month and next for about $127. International sales begin next year. 

Kirin and Miyashita first tested this tech in 2022 with a set of electric chopsticks, which they say makes food taste 50% saltier. The chopsticks won an Ig Nobel Prize last year. For years, researchers have observed that electrical currents can change taste perception, and the spoon is one of the first commercial applications of such technology. 

WHO recommends a daily intake of 2 grams of salt, equal to about a teaspoon. In the U.S., adults consume over 3 grams a day. Salt-heavy diets can lead to a number of health problems like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke and kidney disease. Globally, WHO estimates there are nearly 2 million deaths each year linked to consuming too much salt.

Some countries have pushed for new food package labeling, product reformulation and even taxes on foods high in salt to get people to cut down on sodium. Experts say limiting processed foods and using other aromatic ingredients can help cut sodium out of your diet. Potassium salt and salt-free seasonings could work too.The Electric Salt Spoon creators say this tech — along with other methods of salt reduction — can help Japan reach its target salt intake levels with wider adoption. Kirin hopes to move 1 million spoons in the next five years.

The Numbers

New polling data says Americans have a lot of misconceptions about the economy right now, driven more by feelings than fact. Let’s do the numbers. 


More than half of Americans believe the U.S. is experiencing a recession, according to a recent Harris-Guardian poll. It’s not. The last American recession was at the start of the pandemic, between February and April 2020. What is a recession? We discussed it on our show last year, and our kids’ podcast “Million Bazillion”did too.  


That’s how much consumer prices rose year over year in April. That’s still above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target, but far from 2022’s peak of 9.1%. In the Harris poll, 72% of respondents thought that inflation was increasing.

Why might people feel that way? Because the Federal Reserve doesn’t target the prices of specific goods or services. Even when inflation is cooling, prices for certain products can still go up — sometimes by a lot, like car insurance, which costs 22.6% more than it did a year ago.


That’s the year Bill Clinton campaign strategist James Carville coined “It’s the economy, stupid.” The perception that the economy was bad, even when it wasn’t, may have cost the incumbent President George Bush a second term. But election forecasters told our own Kimberly Adams that economic performance isn’t swinging elections like it used to.

None of Us Is as Smart as All of Us

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Crowdfunding local businesses

Writer Ellen Rolfes (hi!) is listening to a Next City podcast about crowdfunding initiatives that let small investors in on commercial real estate in Chicago and Baltimore.

When “Made in America” is bogus

Producer Nic Perez is reading about how the Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on companies that falsely claim their products are American-made.

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