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June 19, 2014

Unemployment rises among college graduates

Reports say underemployment rate for black grads reaches 44 percent

By Lalita Smith

The time has finally come; after four, five, maybe even six years of perspiration, dedication and preservation (of sanity) it’s finally here — college graduation.

As hundreds, even thousands of nervous students anxiously await that glorious moment when their name is called and they walk across that sacred stage — many of them are thinking to themselves, “What’s next?”

Unfortunately, for many of these students, the answer to that question isn’t a simple one.

The dream is the same for many of these students: go to college, graduate from college and get a job.

Sounds simple, right? For many graduates, it’s far from simple.

According to an annual report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2013 the unemployment rate for college graduates over 25, who earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, was 3.7 percent.

The Economic Policy Institute reports that the current unemployment rate for college graduates between the ages of 21 and 24 is over eight percent.

This means that at any given time — there are roughly 2,000 unemployed college graduates searching for jobs that may not even exist.

Sounds bad — but the sad part is, for many black graduates, it gets even worse.

A report released by the Center Economic and Policy research reports that in 2013, the unemployment rate for recent black graduates is over 12 percent — compared to the only 5.6 rate for all recent college graduates.

The same report released by the BLS also stated that the unemployment rate for blacks who earned a bachelor’s degree or higher was 5.7 percent in 2013, compared to the unemployment rate of 3.5 of their white counterparts.

Many people may argue that the difference in rates isn’t that much — it’s only a little over two percent, right?

However in 2103, the total number of employed graduates was over 47,000 — and over 38,000 of those were white graduates — meaning that over 75 percent of the entire college educated workforce was white.

While blacks made up less than 10 percent.

Suddenly that two percent doesn’t seem so small.

Lauren Carter, 24, a recent black graduate of Cleveland State University — knows just how hard it was to find a job upon graduating.

“It really sucks,” said Carter. “I put in more applications than I can even remember, and most of the time that’s about as far as I got. I had been out of school for two years before I just gave up and decided to go back to college.”

Fortunately people aren’t turning a blind eye to the problems that face these black graduates — articles, studies and reports run rampant throughout the internet, all shedding light unto a plight that might otherwise go unheard.

Unfortunately, the bad news for black graduates doesn’t end there.

With unemployment comes under employment — a twofold term that can include college graduates who work in fields that don’t require a college education (for example a law school graduate who works as a bus boy) and also those who want to and could work full-time, but were forced to accept part-time positions.

It’s true that black graduates aren’t the only ones who suffer from underemployment — a recent article published on Slate.com points out that the underemployment rate for college graduates between the ages of 22 and 27 was nearly 44 percent.

The underemployment rate for all college graduates was around 35 percent.

However, when you consider that fact that white graduates make up nearly 75 percent of the entire college educated workforce, it’s would be a safe assertion that they make up quite a large portion of those underemployed as well, right?

A separate report released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that in 2013, 55 percent of all employed black graduates were underemployed — more than half of all black graduates are underemployed.

“It’s really hard knowing you spent all that time in college, yet companies will offer you part time work or try to underpay you, when you know you can do better,” Carter said.

Seems as though there are a whole lot of people not seeing a return on that good ole’ “college investment.”

So, why is it so hard for black graduates to find jobs?

A recent PBS News hour segment featured Nela Richardson, a Senior Economist for Bloomberg — who attempted to answer this question.

“This is a problem that is fixable,” said Richardson. “When it comes to black youth, you still see double the unemployment rate [compared to] other college graduates, so that’s when we have to match job training programs, perhaps paid internships, with college graduates to make sure they have the same employment opportunities going forward.”

Nothing is ever easy, but if college graduates are willing to do the work, choose the right degree programs for the right jobs, there just might be hope for the next crop of black graduates.