Job outlook for college students remains bleak

As President Barack Obama infused optimism into crowds in downtown Detroit Monday in his Labor Day speech regarding the current state of the job market, a new report raises more doubts about Michigan’s progress in developing an employment-friendly environment.

The Michigan League of Human Services fifth annual Labor Day Report, which tracks unemployment rates across different demographics of Michigan workers, shows a significant increase in the long-term unemployment in groups that encompass recent college graduates.

The report, which was published this month, shows long-term unemployment has risen significantly in every age group: an increasing number of those who find themselves unemployed are staying out of work for longer periods of time.

A little more than a third of all unemployed Michiganians ages 16-24 have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks. The number jumps for the primary work force age group, 25-54, to more than half. Both groups saw an incline in long-term unemployment from 2009 to 2010.

“It’s pretty harsh all the way across the board,” said Judy Putnam, a spokesperson for the Michigan League for Human Services. “Every sector is impacted by this. It’s a problem for every age.”

Nearly half — 49.1 percent — of all unemployed Michiganians who have at least a bachelor’s degree have been unemployed for 26 weeks or more — 11 percent higher than in 2009. Meanwhile, 51.9 percent of those who have attended “some college” have been unemployed for 26 weeks or more, an increase of 12.6 percent for the same period.

But there is some good news: Employment overall dropped 1.1 percent.

Director of research for MSU’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute Phil Gardner said unemployment among recent college graduates often stems from lack of skills to contribute to the workplace — graduates often have academic caliber but lack enough hands-on skills to be attractive to employers.

“A degree isn’t a guarantee (for) a job. It just says you can look for a job,” Gardner said.

Justin Covington, who graduated in 2011 with degree in journalism and political science, has had trouble finding employment since he graduated in May. After bouncing around to a temporary position and a job he previously held at Meijer and sending out upwards of 60 applications to employers all over the country, he has yet to find permanent employment.

“It’s kind of like running a marathon, and you’ll never be told when to stop,” Covington said.

Still, Gardner said the market for college graduates as a whole has gotten better in Michigan. Technical jobs in industries such as the medical and computer industries are continuing to hire more than others, although there hasn’t been enough recent job growth to predict long-term trends.

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