A “Now Hiring” sign is posted in front of a Home Depot store March 8 in San Rafael, Calif. The Labor Department reported today that 236,000 jobs were added in February, bringing the national unemployment rate down to 7.7%, the lowest level since December 2008.
It’s the little victories that count when post-graduation job search stress is at hand.
With 236,000 new positions added in February and a 7.7% unemployment rate, those college seniors looking for jobs enter an improved workforce from their Class of 2012 peers. The unemployment rate was 8.3% at this point last year.
The Labor Department jobs report came at the end of the Dow Jones’ four-day record high closing streak Friday. Despite the sequester, these improvements in the stock market and unemployment rate could better the economy they’ll enter upon graduation.
Recent economic changes have already begun to help seniors, like Tufts University senior Anya Gelernt, 21, who begins her job at the Federal Election Commission in June.
“I’m hoping there’s a lot more opportunity out there for economic growth in everything,” Gelernt said. “With unemployment rate going down, I’m hoping the economy is starting to come back.”
Automatic budget cuts won’t impact Gelernt, but she said her peers who originally wanted government jobs decided not to apply because of the sequester. It’s unclear exactly what the implications of the $85 billion cuts to federal spending will be as the toll they take depends on how long they cuts last.
Once members of Congress make a deficit reduction deal, the Obama administration-touted recovery may continue to “(gain) traction,” as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Alan Krueger said on the White House blog Friday.
But myriad government offices have already announced furloughs for current employees. College seniors attracted to this public sector expect those furloughed and laid off will fill the low-level positions they would’ve applied for, Gelernt said.
Though the February jobs report gains occurred before the March 1 sequester, the number of jobs added in the past month surpassed the threshold necessary for a sharp unemployment rate decline to continue in future months, USA TODAY reported.
But such benefits haven’t eased seniors’ job search-related stress thus far, Haverford College senior Jessica Boyd, 22, said.
Albeit expensive, graduate school this year has served as a safety net for some seniors who feared not getting a job after commencement in May; knowing there’s at least something to do next year is reassuring.
Although this wasn’t the sole reason he applied, Tufts University senior Jacob Passy decided to use next year for journalism graduate school so he could postpone direct interaction with the economy until at least 2014.
But before accepting these applicants, some graduate schools recommend job experience, leading Boyd on a different route to get both levels of training. With a teaching residency at Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) next year, Boyd found a less-expensive means to a master’s degree and in-classroom experience before she begins her career as an elementary school teacher.
Though she said she feels lucky to be employed, the up-and-down nature of the economy leaves her and peers worried about the “real world” they’ll enter in May. While Haverford, among other colleges, help its students find entry-level positions, Boyd said she still worries about future jobs.
Particularly because budget cuts often target the education sector she’s entering, Boyd said she is concerned how fluctuations in the economy could continue to affect her generation.
“If you’re willing to put in the work, it’s not going to get you a job if there isn’t one available, but my school helps us be optimistic about finding something,” Boyd said. “We can’t rely the economy as a positive in having a stable job.”
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