Colorado College is far from invincible from the youth unemployment crisis. According to Georgetown’s 2012 report on youth unemployment, the unemployment rate for Liberal Arts graduates is 1.3 percent higher than the national unemployment rate. The New York Times reported recently that the 16.4 percent unemployment rate for those under the age of 25 was more than double the nation’s overall unemployment rate. But the fact far more immediate and alarming is that over 53 percent of last year’s college graduates are still unemployed today. In other words, fewer than half of last year’s college graduates found work.
It can be argued, however, that the Colorado College class of 2013 is a class comprised of extraordinary individuals who will use their fantastic work ethic and spirit of determination to overcome the awful job market. It is true that a few already have some impressive positions lined up. Sociology major Sara Bodner will be working for the U.S Attorney’s office in Manhattan. Just like any other CC graduating class, the class of 2013 is made up of hundreds of people from across the country and around the world. The vast majority come from upper class families willing to lend at least a little support after graduation. It’s hard to imagine a single CC grad will be homeless or hungry at a time when, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture, one in six Americans are struggling with hunger (an all-time high 16 percent of Americans are on food stamps.)
But the reality is this: many CC seniors will graduate unemployed. Many of those people will stay unemployed for years to come. This is a reality that may worsen or by some miracle, brighten in the next eight months. Despite the declining unemployment rate, more Americans are jobless now than at any other point in history. As the Associated Press reported last week, the unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent in August from 8.3 percent in July. As the AP stated, “that was only because more people gave up looking for jobs. People who are out of work are counted as unemployed only if they’re looking for a job.” The longer one goes without a job, the more likely he or she is to remain jobless and give up looking for work. Last month, over 96,000 people gave up in America. However, most people do not stop searching even though those who are “long term unemployed” are very unlikely to find work. In order to be considered “long term unemployed,” one must be out of work for 27 weeks and still be actively seeking a job. There are 6.7 million people who fit this category- the highest ever in American history. The highest number of people who were “long term unemployed” at any point was just 2.6 million after the stock market crashed under Bush in 2008.
The number of American citizens counted as part of the labor force is at its lowest rate since the 1970s- just 63.6 percent. Aside from all those who are either unemployed or who have given up looking for work, there are many people who are jobless that are often forgotten or not accounted for. The United States has more citizens per capata in prisons than any country on earth. These people are not considered unemployed, but instead counted as “incarcerated.” The United States also has one of the worst homeless rates in the developed world. In cities like New York, 1 in 40 children are homeless. According to YSOP (Youth Service Opportunities Project) 1 in 20 New York City residents have experiences homelessness. 1 in 48 Americans are currently homeless. According to research by Washington University in St. Louis, homeless Americans are not counted as unemployed because “to be officially counted as unemployed, you must have an address.”
But how do CC graduates fare? According to the Georgetown report, recent graduates with Healthcare and Education majors had a 5.4 percent unemployment rate compared to a 9.4 percent unemployment rate for Liberal Arts and Humanities majors. The unemployment rate for recent liberal arts graduates is also higher than it is for graduates in business or engineering. The Denver Post recently reported that seniors at colleges in Colorado are looking for work earlier in the year and applying to a record number of jobs. Still, these college seniors are facing the highest youth unemployment rates in well over a decade.
According to Georgetown numbers, the unemployment rate for people with graduate school degrees is just 3 percent because “those degrees are more closely aligned with career pathways in particular occupations and industries.”
There is no point in making the reality of the situation seem uplifting when there is not a single positive sign that the youth unemployment crisis is slowing. To all the Colorado College seniors reading this: you are not invincible. You may end up being unemployed, no matter how hard you try to avoid that reality. As for juniors and underclassman, there is no indication that times will be better when you graduate. It’s likely you will be facing a job market even worse than today’s. The Democrats and Republicans in DC, with their historically awful congressional approval rating of just 9 percent, are not interested in making the lives of young Americans and everyday working people any easier. The most powerful and influential people in both business and government are interested in making the lives of the 1 percent easier and more luxurious at the expense of the 99 percent. So, the only point of optimism for CC students is that most of you are in that 1percent. But most millionaires in America are millionaires for less than a year. So even if you are rich or have a rich family, there is no reason to be comfortable. Instead, we should all adopt Michelle Obama’s way of thinking. She said in her incredible DNC speech, “Success is not measured by how much money you make but how much of a difference you make in other peoples lives.” So, if you end up unemployed, broke and reliant on your parents, try not to think about your own suffering, but think about how you can help others. A New York Times Week in Review article from August explained how the key to happiness is giving. Instead of wallowing in your own plight if times get tough, keep your head up and remember to love those around you.
And perhaps most importantly, enjoy college while it lasts. Just ask your parents and professors – it doesn’t get much better than this. Work hard and play even harder. We are all lucky to go to a school as enriching as this.
Commentary and Debate Editor