Job market for college graduates improves but remains weak

Finding work — especially a dream job — remains tough for those just graduating from college. Many are settling for jobs outside their fields of study or for less pay than they’d expected or hoped for.
By PAUL WISEMAN, Associated Press Published: April 23, 2014
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— With college commencement ceremonies nearing, the government is offering a modest dose of good news for graduating seniors: The job market is brightening for new grads — a bit.

But finding work — especially a dream job — remains tough for those just graduating. Many are settling for jobs outside their fields of study or for less pay than they’d expected or hoped for.

The Labor Department on Tuesday said the unemployment rate for 2013 college graduates — defined as those ages 20 to 29 who earned a four-year or advanced degree — was 10.9 percent. That was down from 13.3 percent in 2012 and was the lowest since 7.7 percent in 2007. The drop reflects the steady recovery in overall U.S. economic growth and hiring.

But unemployment for recent grads was still higher than the 9.6 percent rate for all Americans ages 20 to 29 last October, when the government collected the numbers.

“I’m finding that all these entry-level jobs are requiring experience I don’t have or degrees that are just unattainable right out of college,” says Howard Rudnick, 23, who graduated last year in political science from Florida Atlantic University and wound up earning $25,000 a year working for an online shoe company.

“The worst part is that I’m afraid at some point I may have to go back to school to better myself and take on more debt just so I can get a better-paying job.”

Over time, though, Americans who have college degrees are still far more likely to find employment and to earn more than those who don’t. And while opportunities for new college grads remain too few, they’re increasing.

“It really is getting better,” says Jean Manning-Clark, director of the career center at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo. She says more automotive and steel companies are now looking at the school’s graduates, joining energy and technology companies that have been actively recruiting for several years.

Last year’s female graduates fared better than men: 9 percent were unemployed as of October last year, compared with 13.7 percent of men. Analysts note that the economy has been generating jobs in many low-wage fields — such as retail and hotels — that disproportionately employ women