Unemployment rates among college graduates ages 20 to 24 was 7.7 percent last year (Thomas Wells)
Perrin Crews recently graduated from the University of Mississippi with degrees in political science and Spanish.
Despite academic accomplishments that included enrollment in the Barksdale Honors College at Ole Miss, he is not immediately headed into the workforce.
“Right now everything is up in the air,” he said, “I’m just exploring different options.”
Crews is one of many new college graduates facing entry into a tough job market, despite slight improvements in the national overall unemployment level. The national unemployment level fell 0.4 percent from January to March of this year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Crews said he is “glad to be out of school and into the real world” and has had a job offer from a nonprofit organization.
For now, Crews would like to spend time abroad, possibly teaching English, at least in the short-term.
Mississippi still has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates at 9.4 percent, compared with an average of 6.5 percent in 2007, right before the recession put the brakes on the economy. Lee County has struggled in recent years with unemployment rates above 10 percent as recently as 2010. The most recent unemployment rate in the county was 7.9 percent, slightly higher than the national average.
Higher than usual unemployment means a larger pool of available labor for employers to chose from, and thus fewer opportunities for recent college graduates with little or no real work experience.
Crews said that among his classmates, the only people he knew graduating with jobs were in accounting. Many others, he said, would go to graduate school.
A national survey by CareerBuilder this month showed the college major in highest demand by employers was business at 31 percent, followed by computer and information services at 24 percent.
The same survey showed that the industry with the largest increase in the availability of entry level jobs was advertising, with a 55 percent increase, followed by computer science (37 percent) and accounting and finance (36 percent).
Still, the largest overall number of entry level jobs available nationwide are in nursing.
Lisa Lamberth, a 2012 graduate from Mississippi State University, has spent the last year working for BancorpSouth in Tupelo. She said it was luck finding a job because someone she knew was leaving.
With a degree in biochemistry, Lamberth positioned herself well and was accepted to begin dental school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center this fall. She said the year working at home has been helpful.
“I just kind of had a year off to work. ... it was really good to save up some money,” she said.
Krista Reed, branch manager at Select Staffing in Tupelo, said working, even if you don’t find the ideal position, is the better option for grads.
“Find something; get a job,” she said.
She said that while it is her goal to find permanent placement for college graduates, even temporary, transitional work will make a difference to future employers.
“Employers steer clear of folks that have not been employed for a while,” Reed said.
Reed said the demand for temporary workers has been high in recent months, with as many as 20 positions open, though now she is working to fill about five positions. She said the agency has spots available for both skilled and unskilled workers.
Still, those who do earn four-year degrees fare better than those who do not. In the US, the 2012 unemployment rate for ages 20 to 24 among college graduates was 7.7 percent, compared to 17.7 percent of non-graduates in the same age group, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Those rates for both groups are higher in light of national economic woes. The jobless rate for graduates increased only 2.2 percentage points over the previous five years compared with a jump of 7.6 percentage points for non-grads.
The 2007 rate of unemployment for college graduates in the same age group was 5.4 percent, compared with 10.1 percent for non-graduates.
Market analysts are hopeful that as the economy continues to recover, employment rates will follow suit. Crews said that although he wants to live and work abroad for a while, he plans to return to the state eventually. “Mississippi is always home,” he said.