Another class of graduates face pandemic future

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The job market is starting to roar, but for anxious seniors like Bao Ha, it’s a whole different reality.

“I probably applied for 130 or 40 jobs or something,” Ha says. “I didn’t even get a return email or interview.”

Ha soon graduated from Macalaster College in Minnesota, and between his anthropology dissertation and attempting to verify items on his graduation bucket list, he spent hours writing cover letters and browsing job vacancies. ‘use.

And now the self-doubt has started to creep in.

“Maybe my cover letter sucks, maybe my CV sucks,” he says.

There are many indications that the job market is coming back: the jobs report was a blockbuster, showing more than 900,000 jobs created, with a strong recovery in previously struggling sectors like restaurants.

The problem for students like Ha is that youth unemployment remains stubbornly high. Although much better than the 27.4% rate in April of last year, the unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds actually increased, reaching 11.1% in March. This was significantly above the overall unemployment rate of 6.0%.

This is no surprise to Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute. When the economy collapses, the job market tends to be worse for young people, she says.

The reality is that there may be a lot of cheaper college graduates to hire, but in an economy still recovering from major layoffs, there are also a lot more experienced workers desperately looking for jobs.

“They will choose, other things being equal, people with more experience,” Gould says of employers. “So young workers are being left behind and many are going to have a hard time starting their careers. “

Erica Schoenberg would know.

She was part of the class of 2020, which had the misfortune of graduating with the full force of the pandemic.

A year after Schoenberg watched her virtual Trinity University graduation ceremony from the sofa in her living room, she’s back with her parents because she can’t find a full-time job.

Needing an income and something to occupy the day, she took a part-time job in a fabric store and she also teaches at the Hebrew School through Zoom.

We are a long way from the publishing career she imagined, and Schoenberg is worried about the void in her CV, which is growing longer by the day.

“My mom said she thought I could save recent graduates until the next few people did,” Schoenberg says.

Erica Schoenberg graduated from college in April 2020. After months of research, she found a part-time job in a fabric store and at the same time teaches a Hebrew school. Courtesy of Erica Schoenberg

The difficulties in finding that first job are magnified for young people of color, especially those without a university degree. Many worked in industries like hospitality and retail, where millions of people lost their jobs.

Guadalupe Avalos is a student at Cass Tech High School in Detroit. Last April, she only had a few months left to work part-time as a barista before the cafe closed and let her go. She didn’t even manage to master the espresso machine.

“I was learning how to use this one,” she says.

Avalos asked about jobs in her neighborhood, like a nearby pizzeria and grocery store, but she kept getting turned down.

“Yes, there was a job at a McDonald’s, but it was 20 minutes away and I didn’t have that kind of transportation available to me,” she says.

For Avalos, finding a job is important: it may determine whether she is able to afford room and board at university next fall.

“I really, really want to move out and go to a college dorm, but if I don’t have that money maybe I should stay home,” she says.

Guadalupe Avalos
High school student Guadalupe Avalos lost her part-time job during the pandemic. Finding a new job would help pay for board and lodging at university next fall. Courtesy of Guadalupe Avalos

And this indicates a reality for many young people. Not getting that first dream job, whether in high school or college, can end up derailing the experience of a lifetime.

Economist Gould says the 2008 global financial crisis could be an inaccurate comparison to the pandemic economy. But one thing it has shown is how difficult it is to recover from the failure of a career start on the wrong foot.

“It took many years for some of these young high school and college graduates to gain a foothold in the job market, down the path they were trained to take, pay off their student loans, start a family, invest. and buy a house, ”she said.

Ha in Minneapolis has even more chances of finding that first job. He is the first generation in his family to graduate from college, and soon his parents will attend his graduation social distancing to see him graduate.

And while Ha isn’t sure what his future holds, he still hopes all the student loan debt, study hours, and hundreds of cover letters sent out will be worth it in the end.

“I didn’t give up,” he says. “I will continue to apply until something happens.”

Copyright 2021 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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