Home Economy Recent Graduates Find Landing a Job Isn’t as Easy as it Sounds

Recent Graduates Find Landing a Job Isn’t as Easy as it Sounds


Just last month, APUS honored some 2,800 students who successfully completed their degree programs.  The ceremony was a very nice one and the excitement of the students who attended was obvious.  Fast on the heels of such exuberance, however, is the daunting task of locating jobs for those who were not already employed as many of our students are.  Across the nation, many recent college graduates are finding it increasingly difficult to find a job.

The global economic crisis is certainly no secret.  It has remained one of the most prominent headlines in American newspapers and on news programs for at least the last couple of years.  As recent college graduates are finding out, the economic crisis is having a dramatic effect on companies and entire industries in which many were hoping to find jobs after graduating.

In April, the most recent month for which data is available, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate rose from 8.5 percent to 8.9 percent, increasing the number of unemployed persons in the United States to 13.7 million.  As companies find themselves struggling to meet the financial restraints placed on them by a dwindling economy, many have announced significant layoffs in recent months.  As the New York Times reported in a January 27 article, 62,000 jobs were cut by U.S. and foreign companies on January 26 alone.  Some of the most significant layoffs occurred at Caterpillar (20,000 jobs lost), Sprint Nextel (8,000 jobs lost), and Texas Instruments (3,400 jobs lost).  Interestingly, the article predicted that the unemployment rate would peak at 8.3 percent by 2010.  Considering April’s unemployment numbers, it is easy to see that the economic downturn has taken its toll on employment and will likely continue to do so for some time.

The Nielsen Company recently reported that between the third and fourth quarters of 2008, “the U.S. added 1.25 million workers to the unemployment roster, an average of 417,000 per month,” noting that that figure represents “roughly the equivalent of taking jobs from the entire labor force of a market like Albuquerque or Tulsa each month.”  The company also reported that the demographic group with the fastest growth in unemployment is among those with a college degree. 

For those recent college graduates able to find employment, there may be years of less than average salaries ahead.  A May 9 article in The Wall Street Journal predicts that “even those who land jobs will likely suffer lower wages for a decade or more compared to those lucky enough to graduate in better times.”  The article cites the research of Lisa Kahn, an economist at the Yale School of Management, who found that during the recession of the early 1980s (which many economists agree is comparable to today’s economic crisis) “for each percentage-point increase in the unemployment rate, those with the misfortune to graduate during the recession earned 7% to 8% less in their first year out than comparable workers who graduated in better times.”  An article in The Washington Post from January of this year notes that in November of 2008, the unemployment rate among those with a college degree or higher reached 3.1 percent; at the same time, the national unemployment rate was 6.7 percent.  The article notes that since “unemployment rates tend to lag behind other economic indicators, analysts think unemployment among college-educated workers is likely to surpass 4 percent, which would be the highest rate since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking unemployment by education level in 1970.”  This is a daunting possibility for recent college grads and those approaching graduation within the next several years. 

There is a ray of hope in all of this doom and gloom, however.  While they may find it difficult to immediately find a job earning a decent salary, recent college graduates are still better off than those of the same age range with only a high-school diploma.  According to The Wall Street Journal article cited above, “The unemployment rate in April among four-year college graduates between 20 and 24 years old was 6.1 percent; among those the same age with only high-school diplomas, it was 19.6 percent.”  In addition, despite the economic downturn, many industries are still reporting substantial profits.  The Fortune 500 2009 annual ranking of America’s corporations notes that in 2008 several industries reported continued growth in revenues.  Not surprisingly, four of the top five industries reporting growing revenues were within the energy sector, including pipelines, petroleum refining, mining, and oil and gas equipment and services.

Interestingly, even though many economists state that even those with college degrees are finding it difficult to land a job, college enrollments are up since the beginning of the recession.  One analyst contends that as individuals lose their jobs, the decision to go back to school becomes easier since there are no concerns over losing income as a result of enrollment.  Additionally, even though many college graduates are finding it difficult to land a job, they are still better off in the job market than their non-college-educated peers.  There appears to be little consensus among economists as to when the recession will end.  Ideally, those who chose to return to college will be rewarded at graduation with a recovering economy and job market.



Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, and as a member of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.


  1. Wally-

    Obviously a sensitive ill-fated state of affairs. Even more challenging, college graduates are entering an environment of a disillusioned Gen Y population seeking new positions, many of which whom are sacrificing underemployment for job stability, making it an even more competitive landscape for new graduates. That said, undergraduates have an extensive array of rich resources at their disposal not seen in the market 10 years ago. Social networking based career search sites, for instance, are constantly reinventing how job searches are conducted, providing connections to valuable information and people to which they otherwise would not have access.

    Are there more effective methods that Universities can employ to create a more active role in bridging the supply and demand of workforce?

  2. I am a recent college grad from the University of Pittsburgh and have been aggressively seeking a job in Pittsburgh for 4 months now. With 2 degrees (3.5 GPA), 3 certificates, 2 internships, and 4 years work experience… I can barely get an interview. If it weren’t for a good friend and a credit card, I would probably be homeless. I feel myself and other recent graduates are in a worse situation than others my age (mid 20s) who never attended college. Now, I have to pay back college loans and credit cards, which I cannot afford, which is making my credit 6 feet under. I am too poor to even attempt to leave relocate for a job as well. What are we supposed to do? If you find the answer, please let me know. ggt2@pitt.edu


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