With Millions of Job Openings, Why Are College Grads Still Struggling to Find Work?

Experts say it partly has to do with a disconnect in location, degrees, and competition.

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Some recent graduates can't catch a break.

The class of 2020 struggled through COVID-19 to launch their careers and the fallout from the pandemic could still impact the class of 2021, despite an explosion in new jobs this summer.

A recent survey of 1,000 recent and impending U.S. college graduates by employment site Monster shows about 45% of 2020 grads are still looking for a job.

An analysis of federal labor data from the fall by the Pew Research Center also found about 31% of grads were still unemployed.

Data Disparity

A closer look at more data shows a disparity.

The latest jobs report shows the U.S. economy added 850,000 jobs in June. Unemployment is now at a rate of 5.9%, down from over 10% a year ago.

So with millions of job openings, why are so many college grads still looking for work?

Experts say it partly has to do with a disconnect in location, degrees, and competition. For insight, we spoke with Jay Denton, a chief analyst at Dallas-based ThinkWhy, creators of LaborIQ.

"Right now there are about 9.2 million jobs open in the country and unfortunately there’s just a mismatch," he said. "Some of the skills are an experience mismatch. I think when we look at for example college graduates, they were more impacted early in the pandemic because they did not quite have the experience. So as companies are getting re-ramped up and trying to get their revenues back on track with where they were before, they’re starting with people with more experience who've done that sort of thing. When you dive deeper into what’s happening with job growth trends, we’re seeing more of an impact on younger adults specifically between 20 and 24."

ThinkWhy is a tech firm that uses technology to study the job market to help recruiters or HR professionals understand hiring trends and who to hire.

“We forecast current salaries. So if somebody is trying to get a job today, depending on experience, education level and what industry they’re in – [we look at] what compensation can they expect today and in the future. Then we follow the overall labor markets. So which markets are going to come back first or which industries are really thriving,” said Denton.

He said certain career paths have thrived in hiring grads during the pandemic like healthcare, technology, law firms and finance.

"These are some of the places that have unemployment rates below 3%. So for them to get a new employee often times are going to have to go with somebody straight out of school, maybe with not a whole lot of experience but they have attained some skills during their studies that will help them hit the ground running," Denton said.

But for those who didn't have that type of degree, finding a job right out of school can be difficult.

Denton added that being meticulous in the job search could be another factor.  

There are millions of hospitality job openings right now for grads to fall back on temporarily but others are holding out for the job they want or are looking only for remote work.

"I think there’s still a bit of a mismatch on what companies would like to go towards, which is a little bit more back in the office. It might not be full-time. And there’s at least one set of candidates out there who are really still seeking remote work," Denton said. "Here in Dallas, there are so many job opportunities and one of the things I think we’re going to have a bit of a harder time filling them as quickly as we normally would is the remote work dynamic."

He added, "I think it’s just us as humans. We got used to a certain pattern over the last year and just what that was like."

North Texas is the Place to Be

Denton said if you're a job seeker, the metroplex is the place to be. Data shows it outperforms so many other cities in job growth and wages.

“Overall we’re seeing a rebound in terms of employment growth, which is fantastic," said Denton. "When the numbers come out later this week by specific metro location, we expect some very strong numbers from Dallas."

Still, with unemployment benefits coming to an end in Texas in June and more people gradually heading back to work in different fields, Denton said it will still take some time for things to unravel, especially for the labor shortages being felt buy the hospitality and travel industry.

He predicts that job sector should return to normal in Dallas within the next several months, with more competitive jobs in other industries normalizing the hiring pace in the next two years.

“It's a long ways away but we do believe in Dallas by 2023, some of those younger graduates will start getting jobs closer to the pace we saw before the pandemic began," he said. “I think the thing to realize locally is that we’re in much better shape than most places around the country. There are many areas like Los Angeles and New York that might still be two or three or four years away from getting all of the jobs back."

Job Fairs This Month

A big job fair happening Thursday in Irving could bring some hope to some of those looking for work.

Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne is hosting the North Texas Job Fair at the Irving Convention Center in Las Colinas from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Van Duyne will be joined by more than 40 local mayors, state representatives, and state senators.

According to Van Duyne's office, the congresswoman has brought in more than 130 local businesses that are looking to hire employees, including Toyota, Amazon, and American Airlines.

Macy's is also holding a national hiring event on Thursday, July 15, at more than 500 Macy's stores and fulfillment centers across the country.

Multiple school districts across North Texas are also hiring for countless teacher and staff positions, including an upcoming job fair with Arlington ISD. Click here to learn more.

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