Oct 10, 2009

Twenty-Somethings in the News: "The Lost Generation?"

Business Week: The Lost Generation

So this is depressing.

In this piece, Peter Coy outlines the abysmal unemployment rate and long-term career prospects for young people. And boy is it ever abysmal.

For people just starting their careers, the damage may be deep and long-lasting, potentially creating a kind of "lost generation." Studies suggest that an extended period of youthful joblessness can significantly depress lifetime income as people get stuck in jobs that are beneath their capabilities, or come to be seen by employers as damaged goods.

Yikes. "Damaged goods"?! Really?! Apparently this argument isn't just doomsday sensational journalism, but is backed up by statistics:

For each percentage-point rise in the unemployment rate, those who graduated during the recession earned 6% to 7% less in their first year of employment than their more fortunate counterparts. Even 15 years out of school, the recession graduates earned 2.5% less than those who began working in more prosperous times.

Perhaps I'm being overly-concerned because I've got my boyfriend graduating from college in a couple of months, ending his paid internship, and entering the real world...which at this point looks like it's going to be the real world, sans job. (Keep your fingers crossed, say a prayer, throw a little salt over your shoulder--whatever it is you do--for him, please, that he'll hear back from someone in the next few weeks.) It's depressing to know that in the long term, our earning potential could be dampened by the recession. It's also depressing to know that my incredibly smart, talented and skilled boyfriend might be one of the casualties of the recession, something which I have (likely just to make myself feel better) been telling myself is IMPOSSIBLE for the past year or so. My boyfriend is way too smart and awesome for that to happen to him...right?

The truth is, there are just so few jobs to be had for young people. Three years ago, when my ex was graduating with an engineering degree, there were tons of jobs available for the newly graduated. Companies were actively recruiting college students, wining and dining even the mediocre potential employees. Now, many of the same companies that were hiring recent grads in droves have hiring freezes on, or if they are hiring, they're only hiring those with experience (3+ years is the lowest I've seen--the vast majority are looking for those with 10+ years of experience). It's depressing. And the number of people applying for the scant entry level positions out there is even more depressing.

If my boyfriend, with his holy grail of college degrees the engineering degree, his ridiculously high GPA, his year of real-world experience in a reputable co-op program, his willingness to transfer just about anywhere, with his professionalism and glowing employer reviews and impressive accomplishments and fantastic personality, can't get a job...what's going to happen to the rest of us? And what's going to happen to all of us in the long run? Are we really going to be lost?

1 comment:

  1. We really are the first generation where our prospects are worse than our parents'. Even before the recession, jobs just aren't what they used to be - a college degree is no longer a guarantee of a solid middle class job with benefits, in part because those jobs just don't exist anymore. Add in the recession, add in baby boomers' (partially recession-driven) unwillingness to retire, and you get disaster for so many of our generation.