27% of recent high school grads work full time

High school graduates are doing miserably in the job market, according to a Rutgers study, Left Out. Forgotten? Recent High School Graduates and the Great Recession. One third of 2006-11 graduates who aren’t full-time college students or graduates are jobless. Only 27 percent work full time at a median hourly wage of $9.25 an hour.

Many have lost hope they can get ahead through hard work, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“It’s striking how severe young people’s problems are,” said Carl Van Horn, coauthor of the study and the director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers. “These are folks at the beginning of their work lives already feeling very pessimistic about themselves.”

Young high school graduates are competing for low-level jobs with college graduates who can’t find work that requires a degree, notes the Inquirer.

Employers typically seek more highly educated people, not because they have greater skills but because they are believed to be better workers, since they showed up for college courses and completed them, workforce experts say.

Some 37 percent of recession era graduates are unemployed, compared to 23 percent who graduated before the recession, the study found.

Many surveyed say they had planned to attend college when they started high school. But 40 percent say they could not afford the cost of full-time college; a further 30 percent say they need to work. And 10 percent say children or family members precluded chances at higher education. About 15 percent surveyed said they were not interested in college, and 5 percent said they did not need postsecondary education for what they wanted to do in life.

The Inquirer ‘s anecdotal people are a Penn State drop-out with a toddler, a part-time day care job and an unemployed boyfriend and a part-time Home Depot worker who wants to study computers but needs to work. I wish the paper had asked both if they’d considered taking community college classes to earn a certificate  in paralegal studies (the single mom once wanted to be a lawyer) or computer technology.

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  1. “I can’t afford college” is a socially acceptable excuse for not pursuing higher education or for dropping out. However, the truth is that cost is not the real barrier. Even with recent tuition hikes, community college is still really cheap. There is lots of financial aid out there for low-income students, from Pell Grants to the GI Bill.

    Poor academic preparation is the elephant in the room that is keeping folks from earning their degrees. Only a minority of high school graduates are prepared for college-level work.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      Not sure that not being prepared for college-level work leaves prepared for real work as an alternative.

      • There are a lot of jobs that don’t require college-level academic skills. Those jobs just don’t pay very much (the quoted median of $9.25/hr).

        Even if we were able to fix K-12 schools such that we doubled the number of students able to handle college coursework, that wouldn’t solve the broader economic issue of there being too many low-paying service jobs and not enough high-paying jobs to go around. The daycares and Home Depots in this country will still need workers.

        • Stacy in NJ says:

          There are many jobs that require 2 year degrees or certificates that pay reasonable well: firefighters, nursing, medical technicians, dental assistants. You don’t need to be 4 year “college ready” to get a decent paying job in America. You may need some specialized training, but as long as you’re literate, numerate, and can follow directions, there are many options.

        • Stacy in NJ says:

          We have a skilled labor shortage in the USA. Many manufacturers struggle to find emplyees with the necessary basic skills.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Crimson Wife.
    Back when the Reagan expansion got going–Reagan said it must be working because “they don’t call it Reaganomics any longer”–we were counseled to be extremely concerned about burger-flipper jobs and the discouraged workers.
    Can we be concerned about burger-flipper jobs and discouraged workers when we have a dem admin?
    My recollection of my HS buddies who didn’t go to college is that they started at the bottom. I think that’s they way it’s supposed to work. Eventually, some ended up owning a couple of tire stores and others kept working at a tire store.
    The key here is the number of unemployed, not the pay of people with two or three years in.
    That said, I have some good friends who are leaving retirement in Texas to make truckloads of money in the Bakken fields. I believe Newt Gingrich said that if ND had trained everybody who wanted a job to be able to do the various things the oil boom requires, ND would have an unemployment of zero.
    Not sure how many of the un/underemployed the oil boom can absorb directly, but the entire area is grossly overstressed in areas requiring service workers as well, and they’re working full time.
    Perhaps more graduation speeches should have commended the grads to not consider themselves too special to need to work in the oil boom.

  3. How many of those young people not in full-time jobs are really working 2 or 3 or 4 part-time jobs? Some of the blame for this is on employers – who have figured out that it’s cheaper to hire more people at fewer hours, because you don’t have to provide benefits for part time workers. So the same miserable teens and twenties are running from job to job, never getting ahead, with no benefits, and no fixed work schedule. If all the employers changed some of those workers to full-time, there might be the same number of workers working, at the same pay for the same hours, but more of them would be full-time and they’d have benefits. (And I suppose prices would go up…?)

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      Sharon. The average cost of “benefits” (a hugely broad category) could be from twenty cents to sixty cents per dollar of income up to a certain wage level after which the ratio drops off. Health insurance costs the same for a high-income employee as a low-income employee, other things being equal. If other things are equal, the start-at-the-bottom employee’s benefit to income ratio cost would be highest. Other factors moderate that, somewhat. So, yeah, prices would go up. TANSTAAFL.
      Benefits are available for individual purchase, but if the employer is providing the benefits, they’re “free”. “Free” is better.

  4. First, minimum wage laws hurt those at the low-skill or entry-level the most, because they are not worth that amount to employers, at least initially. They were first enacted specifically to keep out younger workers and blacks and it’s still working. Second, the cost of benefits makes these people very expensive for employers, particularly with the large uncertainties surrounding Obamacare.