Now that May has ended thousands of newly minted college graduates in Arkansas will join the workforce – or at least they will try to join the workforce. Two recent studies show the stark realities new graduates like me are facing.
The Washington-based Economic Policy Institute says that “job prospects for young high school and college graduates remain dim.” The current unemployment rate for young college graduates is 8.5%, up from 5.5% in 2007.
“The Class of 2014 will join a sizable backlog of unemployed college graduates from the last five graduating classes … in an extremely difficult job market,” the researchers said.
At the same time, the job market for those who land jobs is dramatically changing – and not for the better. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the percentage of recent college graduates who are underemployed – working in job that does not typically require a college degree – has risen since 2001.
“Moreover, the quality of the jobs held by the underemployed has declines, with today’s recent graduates increasingly accepting low wage jobs or working part time.”
So much for the vaunted economic recovery.
College graduates are stepping into the worst economic recovery in generations, and they are doing so with more education-related debt than ever before – the average debt load for a student graduating from an Arkansas college or university in 2012 was $23,324.
This is all the more reason why Congress must act, and act soon to pass pro-growth policies. From my vantage point as a graduating student, I see that hardworking taxpayers and small businesses are doing their part to drive growth and create economic opportunity, but they’re not getting support from Washington. The game playing from lawmakers and the Obama administration – where party is more valued that policy – is holding us all back.
Now, more than ever, the country needs elected officials who will work for their constituents, not just their party, and push meaningful measures that will create growth and jobs for people my age. Two policies in particular should be the top priorities for Congress and the administration. The first is tax reform to fix an overly complex tax code. Our tax code needs to be flatter, fairing and promote growth.
It is particularly unfair to smaller employers, which are the most likely employers of new graduates. More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create nearly two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. So smothering their growth under a punishing tax code seems immensely self-defeating for a country struggling to achieve sustained growth.
The second focus for our leaders in Washington should be on expanding trade opportunities for U.S. businesses. The greater the access to foreign markets, the more production can be ramped up and the greater the number of jobs can be added.
Trade has always been a bipartisan issue, with Republican and Democratic Presidents working with both parties in Congress to pass them. But every once in a while, and all too often lately, Republicans and Democrats forget their bipartisan ways on trade. The reality is that when Congress has given the President – Republican or Democrat – authority to negotiate trade pacts, the U.S. economy has grown as unfair barriers have fallen and new markets have opened for our exports.
All any graduate wants is opportunity — the opportunity to start a career, pay off student debt, start a family. For people of my generation, it is our hope that our elected leaders approve measures providing opportunity to millions of millenials through policies aimed at jump-starting growth and giving America the tools for success.