The college job market offers a warning sign to the US labor market | CNN Business (2024)

The college job market offers a warning sign to the US labor market | CNN Business (1)

The unemployment rate for recent US college grads has jumped over the past year, while the nation's overall unemployment rate has remained flat, under 4%.

New York CNN

It’s almost laughable at this point when Bryn Savidge gets a job rejection email.

“It’s like they’re all using the same AI algorithm to say, ‘Write this person a rejection letter,’” said Savidge, who graduated from Kenyon College, a small liberal arts college 50 miles from Columbus, Ohio, with a major in environmental science. A classic refrain is “We can tell you really want to change the world, but we’ve gone for more qualified candidates,” she said. “They always add an environmental quip.”

After applying to over 100 jobs at environmental consulting firms, law firms, nonprofit organizations and think tanks since last fall, Savidge hasn’t received a single full-time offer. But she is relieved to have at least secured a summer internship at an environmental science publication.

The college job market offers a warning sign to the US labor market | CNN Business (2)

Bryn Savidge thought the economy was doing pretty well. But after applying to more than 100 jobs since fall, the Kenyon College grad is having second thoughts.

On paper, the job market looks like it’s hardly ever been better. The unemployment rate has stayed under 4% for more than two years, the longest stretch of time since the early 1960s. And there are more than 8 million jobs, which exceeds the number of openings before the pandemic.

Jobseekers and representatives at a job fair at Brunswick Community College in Bolivia, North Carolina, US, on Thursday, April 11, 2024. Allison Joyce/Bloomberg/Getty Images Related article The US economy added just 175,000 jobs last month and unemployment rose to 3.9%

But zooming in on the job market for recent college graduates paints the economy in a much less rosy light. The unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree recipients aged 20 to 29 is above 12%, an almost four percentage point increase from a year ago, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

That essentially means applicants like Savidge are competing with more people for the same position compared to a year, said Kory Kantenga, LinkedIn’s head of economics for the Americas. “While securing that first job tends to be challenging, it is especially hard now given the slowdown in the labor market over the last two years,” he said.

Kantenga sees the job market for college grads as “an acute barometer for the temperature of the overall market for workers with college degrees.” When college grads are having more difficulty getting jobs compared to prior years, that could signal there’s a greater slowdown happening in the economy. Since employers tend to value workers with more experience, college grads could be getting passed over by people who were laid off from prior jobs, he said.

‘What are you going to do for your job search today?’

Angela Mangione said she receives a text almost every day from her father saying something like, “Good morning! What are you gonna do for your job search today?” Mangione, who graduated from Colgate University with a major in international relations, said many of her classmates have already signed leases for new places for jobs they’re about to start.

But she’s living back home in Buffalo, New York, doing just about everything she can to get a job.

The college job market offers a warning sign to the US labor market | CNN Business (4)

Angela Mangione graduated from Colgate University with a major in international relations and a minor in economics. She's living with her parents in Buffalo, New York, while she continues to apply for jobs.

“I just don’t hear back [from jobs] until months later when I’ve basically forgotten about it telling me I was rejected,” she told CNN. Initially, she applied for jobs in management consulting but said a lot of positions have been frozen amid an industry-wide hiring slowdown.

She’s now focusing her efforts on campaign jobs, particularly on the Biden campaign, and having more conversations with alumni to continue to build her network.

A bit of luck goes a long way

Although Moises Brito had a high GPA and led Chapman University’s Accounting Society chapter, among other extracurricular activities, he’s not discounting the role luck played in his career.

The internship he got with Deloitte two summers ago came through a cold apply. Not long after he applied, a Deloitte recruiter happened to show up at an Accounting Society networking event.

“I assume that he really enjoyed talking to me because I got an interview shortly after,” said Brito, who double majored in business administration and accounting.

Originally he was offered the internship for the summer of 2023. But because of a change of plans, a recruiter offered him the position a year earlier, going into his junior year.

The college job market offers a warning sign to the US labor market | CNN Business (5)

Moises Brito graduated from Chapman University in Orange, California, with a double major in accounting and business administration. In September, he'll be working in the audit and assurance department at Deloitte.

The next summer he returned to Deloitte for another internship, and at the end was offered a full-time position in the audit department.

That position, however, doesn’t start until September. To cover his expenses until then, he applied for summer internships at other accounting firms in Orange County, California, where he is based. But he encountered what Savidge andMangione have been experiencing: lots and lots of ghosting.

In the end, luck struck again and he managed to secure a six-week internship at a local firm.

The college job market offers a warning sign to the US labor market | CNN Business (2024)

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