Half of new grads are jobless or underemployed

Half of recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed, according to an AP analysis of government data.

While there’s strong demand for graduates with bachelor’s degrees in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities graduates are working in jobs that don’t require higher education. Median wages are down since 2000.

“I don’t even know what I’m looking for,” says Michael Bledsoe, who described months of fruitless job searches as he served customers at a Seattle coffeehouse. The 23-year-old graduated in 2010 with a creative writing degree.

Initially hopeful that his college education would create opportunities, Bledsoe languished for three months before finally taking a job as a barista, a position he has held for the last two years. In the beginning he sent three or four resumes day. But, Bledsoe said, employers questioned his lack of experience or the practical worth of his major. Now he sends a resume once every two weeks or so.

Bledsoe, currently making just above minimum wage, says he got financial help from his parents to help pay off student loans. He is now mulling whether to go to graduate school, seeing few other options to advance his career. “There is not much out there, it seems,” he said.

I majored in creative writing in the early 1970’s, but worked on the college newspaper to qualify myself for a job in journalism. All creative writing majors — and all English majors — knew that opportunities wouldn’t just open up for us. And what sort of graduate degree is he considering?  

“You can make more money on average if you go to college, but it’s not true for everybody,” says Harvard economist Richard Freeman, noting the growing risk of a debt bubble with total U.S. student loan debt surpassing $1 trillion. “If you’re not sure what you’re going to be doing, it probably bodes well to take some job, if you can get one, and get a sense first of what you want from college.”

The fastest growing occupations are in retail sales, fast food and truck driving, reports AP. A huge demand for home health care aides is projected. Only three jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher — teacher, college professor and accountant — make the government’s top 30 list of fast-growing occupations.