Saddled with debts that will take years to pay off, college graduates are finding it almost impossible to acquire any sort of meaningful labor in this much touted jobless recovery.
After graduating from college, Malik moved to Boston. There, she worked as a nanny, sold books, and waited tables — a series of dead-end jobs that didn’t pay more than the minimum wage, didn’t require a college degree, and weren’t remotely related to what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
Two months ago, she ran out of money and drove home from Boston to Lansdale, a middle-class suburb north of Philadelphia, her car brimming with the contents of post-college life: canned food, twinkle lights, potted plants. A dozen of her paintings, stacked to the ceiling, kept hitting the back of her head. When a gas station attendant in New Jersey asked why she was moving and where she was headed, Malik didn’t know quite how to respond.
She’s hardly alone. Malik is part of a generation of 20-somethings that’s experiencing what it’s like to graduate from college, move back in with your parents, and then get stuck there. Though estimates vary, a recent study by Twentysomething Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing to young adults, predicted that of the 2 million graduates in the class of 2011, 85 percent will return home because they can’t secure jobs that might give them more choices and more control over their lives.
To be sure, having a college degree still matters. Nationwide, while the unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent, the jobless rate for college graduates 25 years and older is 4.5 percent. By contrast, 20 to 24-year-olds who only have a high school diploma are contending with an unemployment rate of nearly 20 percent.
That’s 1.7 million graduates who are going to have their dreams and delusions crushed in coming weeks and months.
How long will we continue to pretend that America’s economy is returning to normal? President Obama and mainstream economists can argue all they want about us having avoided a depression, but that’s far from the experience being had by millions on Main Street.
The real unemployment rate in America is north of 20% – that’s one in five Americans who can’t find work. College graduates, who have been made to believe throughout their lives that a college degree is all they will need to find a ‘good’ job are getting a rude awakening. For any meaningful position that becomes available, there are thousands of applicants. Heck, when McDonald’s held a job fair recently, there were hundreds of thousands of applicants for positions paying minimum wage. This should tell you something.
The government would have us believe that economic growth as measured by GDP is positive. This is yet another falsehood, as a large portion of those growth numbers are based on price inflation. Without jobs there can be no actual growth, there can be no increase in consumption, and there can be no recovery.
The most alarming aspect for those who subscribe to the view that things aren’t exactly as they may seem by mainstream accounts is that the negative feedback loop will only accelerate. As more people lose jobs or can’t find jobs, less money is spent on consumption, leading to even more job losses.
Don’t plan on any positive, meaningful long-term developments. It’s going to be very, very ugly for the next decade, and perhaps longer.