Grads Of The Great Recession Struggle To Succeed
|By John Newsom, News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
On Sundays, she tended bar at an Irish pub near her family home in northern
She worked Mondays on an unpaid internship at a public relations firm in
Three days a week, Haarmann wrote marketing content about educational toys for a
She worked nights and weekends at a clothing store, where she was paid
"My parents instilled in me that I should be working all the time," said Haarmann, who graduated from
That was Haarmann's introduction to the post-graduation economy of 2009. Her story is not unusual.
In the wake of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, members of the collegiate graduating class of 2009 found themselves in a scramble for jobs -- a scramble they hadn't foreseen when they started college four years earlier.
Some, like Haarmann, moved home and cobbled together a series of part-time jobs to hold them over until they found careers. Others took refuge in graduate school, got jobs far below where they had hoped to start or didn't work at all.
The summer of 2009 "was the bottom of the recession,"
"It was the worst job prospects of any graduating class for 50, 60, 70 years."
When the class of 2009 entered college in the fall of 2005, the economy was roaring along.
The national unemployment rate was down around 5 percent, which was close to full employment. Interest rates on 30-year home loans hovered at a very reasonable 6 percent. Inflation was nearly non-existent, gross domestic product surged by a healthy 3.1 percent and the Dow Jones Industrial Average remained about 10,000 for the entire year as it romped toward its eventual peak of 14,000.
But as college students across the county worked toward a graduation date of
The overheated U.S. housing bubble popped in 2007, and the banking, insurance and financial industries -- which traditionally hired legions of new college graduates -- deflated along with it.
The country's recession officially started in
The fallout was ugly.
Foreclosures soared, oil prices spiked and Americans stopped spending money. By spring break of 2009, the stock market had fallen below 7,000 -- less than half of what it had been a year and a half earlier.
Worse for the class of 2009, companies stopped hiring. By the time class members picked up their degrees, the nation's unemployment rate had hit 9 percent on its way to 10, and the American economy was well on its way to losing nearly 9 million jobs.
At one point during the recession, according to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in
Those working in career services offices on college campuses quickly noticed something was up.
"They [companies] were just not hiring as much," said Brooks, now the executive director for personal and career development at
One casualty of the jobs crisis was corporate training programs. Because so many experienced workers were laid off during the recession, said those who work in college career offices, companies no longer saw a need to train their own workers.
After two rounds of interviews during his senior year, Boswell said, BB&T froze hiring -- and threw a wrench into his job-search plans.
"It was a very scary process," said Boswell, who majored in business and minored in economics. "I had always been good academically. I didn't think there would be a problem getting a job."
BB&T was far from the only company to scale back on hiring. A
"This is a rather grim report," wrote the authors of the association's job outlook report in the spring of 2009. "The current expectations for college hiring are not promising for the Class of 2009. ... College hiring is not immune from the economic turmoil that has gripped the nation and the world for the past year."
Not a lot of fun
No one knew the recession better than the graduates who tried to find jobs in a bad economy.
But Frierson didn't find work in her career field right away. After graduation, she moved home to
"I didn't think it was going to happen to me," Frierson said. "I'm an overachiever. I did as much as I could in four years. ... It was pretty devastating."
Every so often Donovan checked online job listings. He noticed that big
"They hired a small army of law school grads," said Donovan, who didn't apply. "
At one point he considered working for his father-in-law, who had his own law firm in
The pressure was mounting on Donovan: Not only did he have to take the bar exam in the fall of 2009, he soon would have to start repaying his student loans.
"The job search," Donovan said, "wasn't a lot of fun."
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