More than 7,000 new college graduates were just dumped on the streets of Raleigh — and most of them are looking for jobs.
“Once the counties start to hire, it’ll be an all-out brawl between my previous classmates and I for interviews,” says Morgan Grail, who just received her bachelor’s in elementary education from North Carolina State University. “It’s funny, because I’ve been getting all this classroom paraphernalia, but there’s not even a glimpse at a job.”
Grail is not alone. Jobs are difficult to come by, even for skilled and experienced college graduates.
Part of the problem is the competition. The number of graduates has reached historic proportions. NC State conferred the largest number of degrees in the state’s history this past school year — 8,022. Of those, more than 5,000 graduated this spring. Combine that number with other area Schools—Shaw, Saint Augustine’s, Meredith, and Peace—and it makes for a literal flood of women and men with new college degrees.
Yet much of that flood is being dammed by the remnants of a stagnant economy. The latest figures for the Raleigh area show an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent, a bit better than the national average of 9 percent.
While this number is down from the May 2010 figure of 8.9, many new grads aren’t feeling the difference. It’s still a long way from May 2007, when unemployment in the Raleigh area was at 3.6 percent.
“This is definitely the worst [recession] since the Great Depression,” says NC State Economics Professor Robert Hammond. “Nothing rivals it.”
The reality could be even worse. It’s hard to tell because they’re not coming into the office anymore, said Larry Parker, acting public information director of the North Carolina Employment Security Commission.
“There’s no swarm of college and high school kids at this time anymore, because everything is online,” Parker said. “It’s difficult to determine what happens with that demographic now.”
Finding Ways to Cope
Those fortunate enough to have a previous job, such as Grail, who works at a retail store, ask for more hours while they seek permanent careers in their fields.
Others have chosen to apply for volunteer programs, such as Teach for America or the Peace Corps. Both organizations have seen a nationwide rise in volunteerism.
However, these programs have now become as or more selective and competitive as the universities these students got into in the first place. Teach for America received more than 45,000 applicants in 2010, but only admitted about 10 percent.
NC State’s Peace Corps office reported 24 graduates serving in their program.
“That’s a noticeable increase from years past, too,” said Emma Garcia, the university’s recruiter.
While some turn to volunteering and other jobs, many are using their newfound reasoning skills to come up with fresh ideas. Many are even finding the silver lining in their predicament.
Or a refreshing, amber-colored lining, such as Roth Brewery.
Founded in 2008 by Ryan Roth, a then-recent graduate of NC State, the beer brewing operation has been getting some attention in the Raleigh area for its “rebellious brewing.”
Yet the idea for the brewery was born in part from Roth’s post-graduate employment frustration.
“It took me a good two or three months to find a job after I got my degree in mechanical engineering,” said Roth, who graduated in 2006. “When I did get one though, I realized that I wasn’t getting to do what I really wanted to do. I wasn’t designing and solving problems like I thought.”
“I had been homebrewing and said, ‘Hey, why not give this a chance,’ so we made a brewery. It’s funny, because now I get to solve problems and be more creative than the engineering job,” Roth said with a chuckle.
The state of the economy isn’t anything to laugh about though, and it will be tough yet for many graduates to come, Hammond said.
“The state of thought now is to draw a line around 2016 or 2017 to when we’ll be back to 2006 numbers, but that can be a bit naïve,” he said. “It’s really just opinions right now. We just don’t have the data at this time.”