The unemployment rate for new college graduates has climbed since before the recession, prompting some recent grads to delay looking for a job.
The worst recession in decades—and its subsequent, halting recovery—has particularly punished individuals short on work experience or skills. Since May 2007, the percentage of the population under age 25 who are currently employed has dropped more than seven percentage points to 45.1%, according to the Labor Dept.
The shift is part of a larger transformation in the American work force, where the country’s aging population is leading to a growing number of older workers in jobs or looking for work. With the pace of job openings not keeping up with population growth, that means fewer open positions for younger workers. Indeed, the percentage of the population age 55 and older who are employed has increased more than five percentage points in the last decade, to 37.5%.
To be sure, part of the shift is due to more young workers deciding to stay longer in school, moving on to graduate studies rather than entering the work force.
The jobs picture for recent college graduates, while lackluster over the long term, has shown glimmers of hope recently. Employers plan to hire 19% more new graduates this year than in 2010, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Employers say there’s especiallyhigh demand for graduates with expertise in technology and engineering fields.
But even among college graduates under 25, a growing number are—at least temporarily—opting out of the work force entirely. Among that group, the labor force participation rate, which measures the proportion working or seeking employment fell by three percentage points over the past four years.
That drop in the percentage of young graduates in the labor force actually began near the start of the 2001 recession. Career counselors at colleges say that in the past two years they have seen increasing numbers of graduates opting to travel, volunteer, or get unpaid work experience rather than head straight into a tenuous job market. It isn’t clear, some counselors say, just how long many such students expect this interval between school and a job search to last.