Class of 2012 faces tough job market, despite slight recovery
Craig Held, a Pace University student, is graduating this year with a degree in American studies, with hopes of someday becoming a magazine writer. But as the reality of a downtrodden economy has begun to set in, the 21-year-old midtown dweller has realized that the post-grad dreams formed during his undergrad years may have been just that.
"The last few years, I thought I was going to be fine, that I would find a job right after graduating or in my last semester," Held said. "But with the state of the economy and the job market here, I'm slowly having to broaden my horizons for what jobs I'm willing to take."
Held is one of thousands of college graduates entering New York's job market this month, facing a still-sputtering economy and an uptick in the city's unemployment rate compared with this time last year. Despite slightly improved overall job prospects for new grads compared with the class of 2011, this year's class may be in for a rough transition to real life.
"The economy is sort of gradually improving ... so [2012 graduates] are coming into the market at a later phase of the recovery," said Till von Wachter, associate economics professor at Columbia University. "But it's still a weak labor market ... They probably are a bit better off, but not by much."
Indeed, post-recession graduates are unemployed or underemployed at historic rates, with fewer than half of graduates since 2009 finding full-time work within 12 months of graduating, according to a Rutgers University study released last week.
Rebecca Falborn, 21, is graduating this year from Manhattan College with a degree in communications. She lives with her parents in Rockland County to save money and has been bartending for about a month. After searching all spring for jobs in her field, Falborn, like many grads, has resorted to applying to marketing, sales and teaching jobs outside of her top-choice industry.
"I thought there would be a lot more jobs in the field I was pursuing when I started school, but once it came time and I saw that the jobs aren't there, and I saw how bad the job market is — I wish I had done something different," Falborn said.
Still, the job market in New York is mildly brighter for the class of 2012 than it was for last year's grads. Employers are expected to hire 10.2% more graduates from the class of 2012 than they did from the class of 2011, according to a recent survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The unemployment rate for college graduates under 24 is also improving: It was 7.4% in April, compared with 9.8% for New York City overall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Graduates with degrees in tech-related fields may have an easier time finding work, as it is the fastest-growing industry in the city and expects to hire 12.5% more new grads this year than in 2011.
Held, who will walk Pace's commencement on Wednesday with about $100,000 in loans to repay, said the crushing reality of that student debt, a gloomy job market and lowered expectations for post-grad life have all been a bit of a shock.
"It's disheartening to think that we're ingrained with this idea that you have to go to college to get a good job and once you graduate, jobs will fall in your lap. But now I'm graduating, and I don't have a job," Held said. "It's terrifying."
Follow reporter Tim Herrera on Twitter: @tim_herrera