New graduates struggle to find jobs in tough economy

by Sheldon Schenck – Staff Writer – sschenck@unca.edu

The millennial unemployment rate from last month is amongst the highest of all time, according to a grassroots organization.

Generation Opportunity announced the millennial unemployment rate at 12.7 percent in July. The organization strives to connect the 18-29 age category with job opportunities.

Greg Garrison, now one of the owners of The Hop Ice Cream Café, graduated from UNC Asheville in 2005 with a degree in mathematics. – Photo by Ricky Emmons – Asst. Photography Editor

This unemployment rate is among the highest youth unemployment rates since the end of World War II. The national unemployment rate, which includes all ages, is 8.3 percent as of July.

In addition to the rise in youth unemployment is the decline of the youth labor participation rate. An additional 1.715 million of the 18-29 age group were not counted in July’s unemployment rate because they were not identified as currently and actively seeking employment. Discouraged workers and the underemployed are some of the worker classifications not included in July’s millennial unemployment rate.

Generation Opportunity announced if these 1.715 million discouraged and underemployed workers were included in the youth unemployment rate, it would   be 16.7 percent.

UNC Asheville graduate Allison Nalley is dealing with the 12.7 percent youth unemployment rate first-hand.

“I am having a lot of trouble finding a job doing anything that is close to what I majored in,” Nalley said.

Nalley graduated from UNCA in the spring of 2012 with degrees in psychology and sociology. Like many other career-seeking graduates, Nalley faces the confusion of finding the perfect strategy to a secure job.

“My advice for currently enrolled students is to do as many internships and other opportunities that are related to work experience as you can during your time at school,” Nalley said.

UNC Asheville political science professor Dwight Mullen also places importance on internships when it comes to scoring a job in a jobless market.

“The most common way (to get a job) right now is to do an internship, and the earlier you do it, the better,” Mullen said. “I have students right now who are sophomores who are doing internships, and they should do them all the way up through their senior year.”

Tommasanne Davis, the internship and employer relations coordinator in the UNCA Career Center, says there are positions available out there for graduates, it is just a matter of marketing yourself in an appealing way.

“We try to help students and graduates promote themselves as best as they can,” Davis said. “Understanding what you have to offer and being able to articulate that is important. Employers are still looking for people with a good skill set and for students who have a liberal arts background and can communicate and write well.”

While some look at the strategies of finding work as a means of securing a job, others approach the situation on an institutional level.

Paul T. Conway, the president of Generation Opportunity, announced in a press release that the burden of unemployment should be placed on the government.

“Instead of aggressively embracing policies that liberate businesses to create more jobs, the president and his appointees have pursued an agenda that suffocates economic opportunity under the weight of more spending, higher debt, more regulations and higher taxes,” Conway said. “Millennials deserve better from their government.”

Mullen also believes the high unemployment amongst the youth is largely institutional, rather than being the fault of the individual.

“Really, most jobs, most things that employ us, are beyond our ability to control, because they are institutional factors,” Mullen said. “The institutions are adapting themselves to maximize the labor out of the individuals who they’ve already hired and seeking profit rather than employment as ends.”

Mullen thinks businesses have a civic duty to their community to provide employment opportunities to citizens.

“It’s the failure of our institutions to be imaginative and focused on the unemployed, as opposed to profit-making,” Mullen said. “There’s nothing wrong with profit-making, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the unemployed.”

Davis asserted there are plenty of jobs out there for UNCA graduates and students should not be discouraged.

“Our graduates have really good success. They’re not doomed,” Davis said. “Employers are looking for applicants with basic skills, like knowing how to show up for work on time and what it means to be in a work environment. (Employers) are willing to teach people the technical skills as long as they have the basic background.”

Though the unemployment rate for the youth is high, Davis does not want job-seekers to give up.

“Some people are so discouraged that they don’t even try to look for a job,” Davis said. “The news sounds really fearful but I don’t think it’s as bad as it sounds.”

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