While many college graduates aren't exactly eager to give up a life of beer pong and afternoon classes for the daily drudgery of 9-to-5 office life, this year's batch of newly minted adults faces an even greater problem: The possibility of no job at all. The unemployment rate remains above 8 percent nationwide, and young graduates are entering a market that's more competitive than ever. "Truly, this is a terrible time to be young," says Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman. Here, five reasons new graduates might wish they could put off graduation:
1. The job market isn't growing fast enough
The economy added a lackluster 115,000 jobs in April, which isn't nearly enough to absorb the crush of graduates that will enter the market in the summer and beyond. And the unemployment rate for young people is much higher than the national average. Currently, the jobless rate for workers under age 25 is 16.4 percent.
2. They're suffering from a "recession hangover"
"The class of 2012 faces tougher competition" than most young graduates, thanks to what's been called a "recession hangover," say Lauren Weber and Melissa Korn at The Wall Street Journal. Essentially, 2012 grads will be competing for jobs not only with their classmates, but with the many unemployed or underemployed graduates from 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 who entered the workforce during the recession and its aftermath.
3. Companies are making do with unpaid interns
Several firms, aware that graduates are increasingly desperate for work experience, have boosted their ranks of unpaid interns to perform duties once done by regular employees, says Steven Greenhouse at The New York Times. The trend has "spread to fashion houses, book and magazine publishers, marketing companies, public relations firms, art galleries, talent agencies — even to some law firms," reducing many graduates' chances of seeing a paycheck.
4. Student debt is soaring
Graduates today will be burdened by much higher levels of debt than previous generations. Two-thirds of students graduating this summer "will have student loan debt averaging more than $25,000," says Ann O'Leary at The Huffington Post. The total amount of student loans in the U.S. is estimated to be a staggering $1 trillion — or more.
5. The class of 2012 will find it hard to recover
Starting your career in a tough job market can have a deep impact on the rest of your working life, and studies show that "the graduates with unlucky timing did significantly worse" than those who graduated in boom times, says Krugman. Given the severity of the latest recession, the "long-term damage to the lives of young Americans" could be much greater than in past downturns.