Two years after the end of the Great Recession, the job market remains bleak, with millions unable to find work or no longer bothering to look.
The picture has been especially discouraging for new college graduates, who have found themselves joining a workforce with fewer and fewer jobs to go around. In something of a turnabout, however, 2011's college graduates are finding the job market a bit more welcoming than the class before them did -- a trend made possible by high corporate profits this year, one of the few sectors of the economy to perform strongly in recent months.
Hiring of new college grads is up 10 percent this year, Bloomberg Businessweek reports, with many of the new jobs going to students who have a business background. Analysts anticipated this trend in the early months of 2011, noting that not only did more companies say they had plans to hire new graduates this year, but starting salaries for these new hires would be greater than in 2010.
By contrast, hiring of new grads changed little between 2009 and 2010, and many of the graduates from these years are still struggling to find work.
The market for 2011 grads is by no means booming. But hiring is up, and much of it is taking place at large companies, according to figures from the Society for Human Resource Management. These findings align with recent surveys from both Gallup and the National Federation of Independent Businesses showing that hiring outlook remains weak among small business owners.
The bump in hiring for recent college grads also dovetails with a recent study from the Labor Department, which found that having a bachelor's degree represents a significant advantage in the job market. Unemployment among people who hold at least a bachelor's is only 4.3 percent, compared with the national average rate of 9.1 percent.
For people with associate degrees, or incomplete coursework toward a bachelor's, unemployment rises to 8.3 percent. And among those who only have a high school degree, unemployment is slightly higher than the national rate, at 9.3 percent.
Still, while the jobs picture has improved somewhat for the college graduates of 2011, men and women who graduated in 2009 and 2010 continue to have difficulty breaking into the workforce. Companies are more likely to hire an applicant straight out of school than one who has been unemployed for some time.
This pattern in the job market, which increases the chances that a person out of work for six months or longer will remain out of work, is one of the things Obama's upcoming jobs plan will reportedly address, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The president has said that the preference among employers for job applicants who have only been out of work a relatively short time "makes absolutely no sense," and implied that it is a form of discrimination.
Bloomberg notes that many of the new hires among the class of '11 have plans to get into finance -- albeit in a roundabout way, since a large number of them are being hired for accounting positions. But the financial industry is confronting problems of its own.
Profits are down and layoffs are on the rise, and employees with the least seniority -- which would certainly include any members of the class of '11, newly part of the workforce -- are often at the greatest risk of having their job terminated.