Lots of people got walloped by the Great Recession, but young people who graduated into one of the worst job markets in decades took a particularly bad beating. By whatever standard you choose -- the under-24 employment rate, the number of grads in jobs that don't require a degree, starting salaries -- the situation was grim. And perhaps the worst part is that graduating into a recession has been shown to have serious, negative long-term effects on your career.
You couldn't blame this year's crop of soon-to-graduate college students if they're looking ahead to the beginning of their professional lives with a degree of dread.
But I have good news for worried young people (and their anxious parents). According to a pair of cheerful new reports, the hiring situation for college grads is finally starting to turn around.
More jobs and higher salaries
CareerBuilder's annual poll of hiring managers is the first piece of happy reading for graduating seniors. According to the job site's figures, the number of employers planning to hire grads this year (67 percent) is the highest since before the recession in 2007. And companies are even willing to sweeten the salary pot a little -- 37 percent reported entry-level pay packages are going up this year.
The good news is largely down to the improving economy, but grads can also thank their boomer parents for vacating a few office chairs. "We are beginning to see a rising number of retirements, which is creating more room for advancement and creating opportunities for entry-level candidates," Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder noted.
The Economic Policy Institute's "Class of 2016″ report apparently offers grads even more grounds for optimism. "Thanks to the steady economic recovery, these young people are expected to do better than any other class since 2009," Fast Company reports the paper as saying. On a less happy note, "wages for both high school and college grads haven't reached pre-recession levels," and this year's grads will have to compete with a backlog of underemployed young people who are still struggling to get a foot on the career ladder due to the grim job market into which they graduated.
Is there a skills gap or isn't there?
One thing the two reports don't seem to agree on is whether college grads are adequately prepared for the jobs that are out there. Employers see a skills gap, according to CareerBuilder, which found that 24 percent of hiring managers feel academic institutions don't do enough to prepare students to be work ready. (That number is up three percent from last year.)
But the Economic Policy Institute paper insists that the remaining issues in the job market for young people have little to do with colleges inadequately preparing students for work. "Weak demand for goods and services, which makes it unnecessary for employers to significantly ramp up hiring," is instead to blame for any lingering weakness is hiring, it insists.
What's your take -- in order to thrive professionally, do young people need additional practical skills or a stronger economy?