As the pandemic faces a recession nearing Great Depression levels, college graduates face the daunting task of finding a job. If young people find employment, an expert stated that companies might cut salaries over the next decade.
Impact of the Coronavirus on the Economy
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate has dropped to 7.9% in September of 2020, almost a 7% drop from the unemployment rating in April, 2020. The U.S. economy added 1.4 million jobs in August of 2020 after 23 million Americans became unemployed in April.
President Trump referred it to “the fastest labor market recovery from an economic crisis in history” in the press conference earlier this month. However, approximately a quarter of August’s employment gains were government jobs, specifically temporary work for the 2020 census. The employment rate remains 7.6% below its February level, before the coronavirus pandemic hit the nation.
Challenges of a Recession
Brad J. Hershbein, an economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, said that a recession challenges those entering the labor market. Still, the specific impacts may vary depending on a person’s education level. For example, a new college graduate is more likely to find a job than those without a Bachelor’s degree, but they are more likely to struggle to get a position with a desirable salary during the pandemic.
“The more highly educated you are, the more your initial job placement can matter,” said Hershbein, who studied new high school graduates entering the labor market during and after a recession. “When there is a recession, it’s less likely that you get a job with the company that you otherwise would have gotten, and that impact on your earnings can last for a decade or more,” Hershbein said, “But you’ll still find a job.”
Unlike other historic recessions led by a lack of demand, Hershbein believes this recession is harder to pin down because lockdown restrictions from the pandemic caused it. “It’s not a traditional recession where we can identify clearly,” said Hershbein.
Although the pandemic’s impact on the economy is harder to predict, Hershbein said it might have a similar effect to a traditional recession, leading to a decrease in consumer spending and increasing joblessness not only among skilled workers but also among professionals. “That’s going to start happening later this fall and into the spring,” he said, adding the presidential election and other factors can largely affect the situation.
Virtual Job Hunting in the Social Media Age
In addition to the coronavirus pandemic, recent college graduates face new challenges to job search in the digital age, said Gary Travis, the founder and CEO of a social media consulting agency Blooming Bound. Travis believes the labor market has become more competitive because more people with college degrees are applying through more job listing platforms. This competition has made some companies hold unrealistic expectations for their applicants.
“If you are going to ask for 15 years of work experience, then be willing to pay for it. Give the older candidates that meet your requirements a chance,” he posted on LinkedIn, referring to hiring managers looking for highly experienced candidates for a position with an entry-level job salary.
Travis said recruiters at the large companies tend to focus more on candidates’ education and work experience on their resume than their personality and character due to countless interviews with applicants. “From the hiring perspective, people have too many options when it comes to hiring. If you have to make choices, it really takes away from the human element of hiring somebody,” he said. Travis is an increasing rarity because he always pays attention to a candidate’s work style when he recruits.
Although social media platforms like LinkedIn help people expand their social network and find more job opportunities, Hershbein said graduating from prestigious colleges still gives advantages. “A lot of [social media] is the old-fashioned networks of connections based on who you interact with and where you went to school,” he said.
Hershbein said that selective universities tend to offer students more opportunities to connect with recruiters than regional public schools, and social media may help find existing job opportunities but do not necessarily create a new connection.
Will a Resume Gap Impact Job Applicants?
Recent college graduates seeking a job may be apprehensive about resume gaps during the pandemic, but recruiters would be more understanding, said Hershbein.
“It’s generally less of a problem. When you have a gap during a period of time that is a bad recession, employers will know that it’s difficult to find a job for recent college graduates [and] other people,” he said. However, he said employers prefer applicants with some experiences while being unemployed, such as going to a graduate school or volunteering.
The Bottom Line
“It’s sometimes a winding road or it’s not always a straight line…but things have a way of working itself out,” said Travis. Travis also struggled to find a job after graduating from college in the late 2000s amid the recession. “Don’t get discouraged when things don’t work out because it’s really a numbers game. You just have to keep trying,” he said.
Anju Miura is a recent graduate of Boston University, where she studied journalism and psychology. Her passion lies in covering both international relations and local politics, focusing on racial justice, immigration issues, and elderly affairs.