After a painful year of joblessness, the future has finally brightened for Alycia St. Germain, a 22-year-old college senior at the University of Minnesota.
Having lost a part-time gig at Barnes and Noble last March as the viral pandemic tore through the U.S. economy, she was left unemployed like tens of millions of other Americans. But now, St. Germain has a job lined up — with benefits — even before graduation and in her chosen field of developmental psychology. A family friend established a new child care center in St. Paul, and St. Germain landed a job as an assistant in the infant room.
Not all new college grads will find a job so quickly. But collectively, this year’s graduating class is poised for better prospects than were the 2020 seniors, who had the misfortune to graduate into the depths of the brutal coronavirus recession. Though the competition will be stiff — this year’s graduates will have to compete, in many cases, with 2020 graduates who are still seeking their first full-time job — employers are ramping up hiring. And many are desperate for workers.
On Friday, the government reported that employers added just 266,000 jobs in April, a surprisingly sharp slowdown from the 770,000 that were added in March. Yet much of that lapse reflected a shortage of available workers, economists say. The economic rebound is strengthening so fast that many businesses are struggling to quickly attract enough applicants to fill jobs.
The pace of job openings, in fact, has fully recovered from the pandemic and is now far above prerecession levels, including in professional occupations that college students are more likely to seek and that can typically be done from home.
Graduating into a recession has historically led to poor outcomes for many young people, with research showing that they sometimes bear long-running scars. Starting a career in a recession can lead to lower incomes for as long as a decade afterward for those graduates, compared with their peers who completed college just before or after a recession.
The sectors of the economy that face the most difficulty in regaining all their lost jobs are the service sectors that were hit hardest by the pandemic recession: Restaurants, bars, hotels, gyms, and entertainment venues. Though college graduates often take such jobs temporarily, they typically seek out careers in professional or technical fields, where job losses were far less severe last year and are now recovering.