Out-Of-Work Grads Rethink The Value Of A Degree The nation's economy is showing signs of renewal. Employment went up in March, the largest increase in three years, according to the latest jobs report. But even as the economy recovers, it's still a tough job market for many new and recent graduates. Host Liane Hansen talks with NPR correspondent Yuki Noguchi about out-of-work college graduates and the long-term effects of unemployment on those with secondary and graduate degrees.
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Out-Of-Work Grads Rethink The Value Of A Degree

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Out-Of-Work Grads Rethink The Value Of A Degree

Out-Of-Work Grads Rethink The Value Of A Degree

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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

But even as the economy recovers, it's still a tough job market for many new and recent graduates. NPR's Yuki Noguchi joins us in our Washington studio to tell us more. Welcome to the program, Yuki.

YUKI NOGUCHI: Thanks, Liane.

HANSEN: You've spoken with some graduates who've been looking for work. What are they saying?

NOGUCHI: Well, there's one of them, Matt Jones(ph), he's got a law degree from Michigan State, and he graduated nearly two years ago. He's been looking for work ever since then, and he can't find anything anywhere.

MATT JONES: There's been a lot of soul-searching. Did I make the right decision to go to law school? I've really been engaged in a lot of prayerful moments, I suppose you could say, and that's been a nice source of comfort. But as much as I hear folks talking about an improving economy, folks like me aren't seeing it.

NOGUCHI: And that's a problem for him, of course, because he has a six- figure school debt now.

HANSEN: How would this prolonged joblessness affect the earning potential of someone like Matt Jones?

NOGUCHI: Some studies show that people who've experienced that are less willing to switch jobs later in life. And so, since that's the way people advance in the world both salary-wise and status-wise, you know, not moving could actually be a liability in the future.

HANSEN: So what are these graduates doing in the meantime? I mean, are they looking for internships, are they going back to school for a higher degree? Are they moving in with their parents?

NOGUCHI: And employers are really able to drive the hard bargain here. Here they get free labor, and they get to test-drive these prospective employees. But you have to have some other way of supporting yourself if you're going to do that. And the reality is that most grads have lots of student loans to pay.

HANSEN: Is it possible to tell what the future looks like for people who are just entering the workforce?

NOGUCHI: Well, there are skills and degrees that are in demand: sciences, most notably in engineering. For the others, the jobs will come back when the businesses start hiring in large numbers again, but there's a long line of recent grads like Matt Jones or others who were recently laid off who are also looking.

HANSEN: Well, given the expense of a secondary or graduate degree, is it still worth it?

NOGUCHI: Well, the numbers say so. I mean, the unemployment rate for college grads is half that of what it is for high school grads, but you know, that's not to say some people don't have some regrets. Here's what Matt Jones told me.

JONES: I always perceived myself as a successful individual. You know, I went to college. I got good grades. I went into the law program. And I had been told all my life that when you follow these steps, that you have some sort of reward at the end. Well, I haven't found that reward yet.

NOGUCHI: That's Matt Jones, who graduated two years ago with a law degree. And, you know, he's got some things to look forward to. He's getting married in October. But as for the job market, we'll see what happens.

HANSEN: NPR's Yuki Noguchi. Thank you, Yuki.

NOGUCHI: Thank you.

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