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Bonddad's excellent recommended diary today was an excellent reminder of the perils facing twenty-somethings and the American economy in general.

However, there are a lot of misconceptions still out there about this issue, including and especially regarding college graduate employment figures.  As one commenter responded to bondad:

College Grads Can't Find Jobs?  Can that be right?  The BLS tables show that the unemployment rate for college graduates currently is 2.1%...Unfortunately for many college graduates, it seems that the reading and writing standard English and speaking clearly requirements present insurmountable hurdles.  

Unfortunately, there are many people (especially boomers) who carry this prejudice, and I feel it needs to be addressed.

The reason the unemployment rate for college grads remains low is that it counts all jobs, not just quality jobs.  

Look around next time you are at the mall.  A lot of recent grads are working at low-skill, low-paying jobs (think Pottery Barn or The Gap) while they live at home.  These jobs can't cover rent, health insurance and loan payments, but living with parents or lots of roommates makes living off these jobs possible, and boosts the employment numbers.  

It used to be that when you graduated you got married and had a family.  The only friend I know who has followed that path is married to a man in the military, which provides housing allowances, health insurance and a reduced cost of living through services like the PX and RX.  This is not uncommon: one of the biggest challenges facing the armed forces today is the percentage of members with family.  The military used to be made up of single service members.  That has changed and it demands additional infrastructure and has produced intense institutional change as the military has had to grapple with issues such as domestic violence, the increased burden of deployments, dependent care and retention rates.

I graduated from college about three years ago.  My boyfriend describes the difference between my generation and previous generations as the frog in the boiling pot.  While the previous generation has felt the water getting hotter with reduced pensions, high turnover at companies, outsourcing, layoffs, stagnant wages, rising health care costs for those lucky enough to even be offered insurance, the necessity of a two-income household, high housing costs and longer and longer hours, my generation is entering straight into this modern work place culture.  

And we see it for the raw deal that it is.  While boomers may be near enough to retirement to try and stick it out, we see a system that is broken now and only getting worse. We see the gap between the rich and the poor getting wider and wider and understand the necessity of struggling to stay ahead of the curve so we don't fall into the precipice.

Hence the number of college grads rushing back to graduate school (and yet more debt) and the recent grad's penchant for moving home with mom and dad, working a relatively unchallenging retail job for less than 40 hours a week, thank you very much, that affords them the time and a little bit of money to party with their friends and enjoy life.  

They are delaying adulthood because society and the job market aren't able to provide them the start they need and they balk at the high cost of the bum deal they are getting.  

My generation knows that despite how hard we work, or how many hours we work to 'get ahead,' we will never be on firm footing.  The notion of sacrificing now for a more secure future does not exist.  We see the writing on the wall; we live in an American economy where we are only one lay-off, outsourcing, restructuring away from starting all over again.  We live in an economy that is so distorted it can no longer reward hard work.

If boomers didn't trust anyone over 30, my generation doesn't trust the economy.  

We know no one is looking out for us.  Boomers have been horrible financial role models.  Most of our parents didn't save enough for retirement and that generation's fiscal legacy will include record deficits, negative savings rates and reverse mortgages.  Boomers demanded (and passed) tax cuts during wartime!  We aren't stupid; we know having your cake and eating it too won't leave enough for the rest of us.

Fundamental notions of American working life have been challenged, trashed and toppled. Yet they remain politically unanswered--Because boomers think they can tough it out to the finish line and my generation thinks the race is fixed anyway.  

In this week's Newsweek, an interview with Tamara Draut, author of Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30- Somethings Can't Get Ahead asked "What is your advice for young adults who want to do better financially?"

Her response?  "The best financial advice I can give is for this generation to awake from its political slumber."

And it is going to have to happen or this country is in some serious trouble.  When upper and middle management finally does retire (later and later these days), American industry is going to look down the ladder and they are not going to like what they see; a reduced pool of experienced workers.  When the jobs do finally open up, there isn't going to be anyone with the experience or the willingness to fill them.

Which is why despite my generation's failure to enter politics, we need to find a solution to the boiling pot roiling America's workers.  Because it's officially hot, whether you're sitting in it or just getting in for the first time.

Originally posted to theKK on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 11:03 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  tips (3.66)
    to supplement my income from my latest service sector job!

    Gov. Schwarzenegger, I have a special interest in kicking YOUR ass.

    by theKK on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 11:04:23 AM PST

  •  this is the absolute truth (4.00)
    My academic credentials coming out of college were very high, and I'm a white male, so no inherent discrimination against me either in the job market.

    But I know it's shit, I've watched too many friends go through it.  I elected to work for the family business for a while instead, and have now started my own business.

    Meanwhile, my academic field had nothing to do with the job I ended up taking--it was all vocational training from the family business.

    Because I know that this fucked up economy ain't gonna take care me by a long shot, even if I do put in 50 hours a week like my cohorts--and I care about life too much to do that anyway.

    The fact that many of my friends are politically asleep is the most appalling thing of all.

  •  The new Great Depression (4.00)
    Let's face it: If you're under 35, you're experiencing a Depression.  Not the "hand me a Prozac" kind, but the "when my grandparents lived in a car" kind.

    You'll be the ones with stories for your grandkids (if you have them), about stretching a microwaved Mac n' Cheese for three days' dinner.

    You'll also be the ones who can say "That socialized medicine program?  We did that.  That massive windfarm program?  We did that.  That high-speed electrified rail system?  We did that."

    And here's a secret:  There isn't one.  You have the knowledge and the skills to do any one of the important jobs that will be needed to pull this country through.  Whether you work at Wal-Mart right now, or Starbuck's, you already have the skills needed to build a manufacturing company, or design a light-rail system.  It's not brain surgery, saving this country.

    But you're right, you need to get political.  For every buttoned-up young Republican, there are 17 young liberals who are busy choosing colors for an iPod.

    Great diary.

    •  It's easy to get excited about an ipod... (none)
      there are so many accessories!  </snark>

      How true. What would the 60s have looked like if the rampant materialism and marketing culture of today had existed then?  

      I think my generation can do great things, and a lot is going to be demanded of America's youth when necessity finally wakes us up.  

      Thanks for your comment.

      Gov. Schwarzenegger, I have a special interest in kicking YOUR ass.

      by theKK on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 11:47:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well, I for one see a silver lining in this. (none)
    At least after the hardship breaks the hold of culturally enforced consumerism on the younger generation and forces a new cultural growth that cares about the future and plans accordingly, I'll have people I'll be able to have more than a 5 minute conversation with before they decide I'm a "Debby Downer."

    "My" generation is full of drooling, gadget-enraptured, materialistic, conflict-adverse, self-centered advertisement-reciting morons, and the social awareness that used to make up for the boomer's narcicism has long since become addled -- unfortunately the annoying condescension has not.

    (Sorry folks, but I call it as I experience it.)

    Oh and don't worry about the marrying late thing -- those few of us reasonable to plan ahead know that's the better choice anyway.  Don't feel obliged to repeat the mistakes of the generation before you.

    OpenSource volunteers needed to bring election accountability:

    by skids on Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 08:51:13 PM PST

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