Graduates in a depressed economy may be affected beyond jobs

JK NOTE: Let’s work to get the links to SOTs working

By Ke Xu


Last year was a frustrating year for Tim Strain, a college graduate of 2012 in Media Studies at Emerson College. He has applied for 64 jobs before he got the current job at Kendall Square Cinema.

According to the latest stats from Economic Policy Institute, the labor market for young graduates remains grim. For young college graduates in Massachusetts, the unemployment rate was 13.8 percent in 2011 and 12.1 percent in 2012, while the underemployment rate was 27.8 percent in 2011 and 24.9 percent in 2012. Both of the above rates are higher than national one.

Strain is one among those college graduates who are in an underemployment situation.

He makes less than $9 an hour at the movie theater. Strain’s income depends on how many shifts he gets per week. “Typically between 21 and 35 hours per week. On average I make 900 bucks a month.” Strain said. “It’s definitely not enough to get by. If I don’t get a new job within the next six weeks, I’m going to start running out of money.” he said.

“I think that a lot of people my age, college graduates and non-graduates, they are having hard time now getting a job than at any other point in our history. I think having a college degree means less now than it ever had before.” Strain said.

tim strain

The picture was taken on Strain’s (second from the left) commencement day

Todd Idson, a Boston University labor economics professor,  believes that the financial crisis in 2008 is still to blame for the high unemployment and underemployment today.

Idson also pointed out that businesses, sensing and seeing continued political gridlock in Washington, face a great deal of uncertainty and are holding back on hiring and expansion.  “They are sitting on a lot of cash and they are not investing because they don’t know what is going to happen to the economy,” Idson said. Additionally, there is a shortage of people in some majors with high demand.  “It is clear that there are distinct educational problems causing lack in employability. Education is not supposed to be entertainment, and so many of our students are just not going into the areas where the need is the greatest.”

However, Idson was more concerned about the life-long effect that the depressed economy may bring to the graduates since 2008. “This generation will be heard via the sociological consequences beyond jobs. The social devastation from high unemployment and underemployment is quite something and I don’t think people fully recognize that,” said Idson.

“One thing which has been shown and is very unfortunate is that when a student graduated into a depressed economy, it dogs them throughout their whole life.” Idson emphasized that the depressed economy will have implications for accumulation of wealth, retirement savings and possibly even marital issues which are often related to stable jobs.

“It has many serious implications for individuals and for the economy,” Idson added. “The strength of  the economy is based on the quality of its workforce. And the educational system is not providing what it should be providing. That’s being a slowdown of our rate and growth. And if the depressed economy leads people to have less experience in the labor force, it will also reduce the productivity and jobs that will have long-term depressing effects both on the economy and the general society.”

Listen to the tips from Carol Spector, the director of career services at Emerson College:

1. Did you see any changes in employment during the past years?

2. What kind of common problem the recent college graduates have when they are hunting  jobs?

3. Do you have any tips for the class of 2013?

About Ke Xu 8 Articles
Ke Xu is a second-year graduate student in journalism at Emerson College and an intern at Latitude News. She believes that a good story should be both audience-centric and story-driven, and a good journalist should not just care about the facts, but also the human beings or issues behind the story. Outside of journalism, she is passionate about reading, music, food, skiing and running.