Job Prospects for High School Graduates In the Face of the Great Recession
Posted on 07/25/2012
Rutgers University recently released the study Left Out. Forgotten? Recent High School Graduates and the Great Recession (pdf), which provides a wealth of information on the employment situation of a representative sample of 544 people who graduated high school between 2006 and 2011. This column summarizes several of the findings from the survey the authors of this study conducted in spring 2012.
Employment Status of the Sample. College graduates are employed at nearly twice the rate of high school graduates, with only three in 10 of the latter employed full time. For those who graduated high school in 2008 or earlier, 37 percent are employed full time. This compares with only 16 percent of graduates from the 2009-11 recession.
First Job. Since graduating from high school, approximately half of the students were able to find at least one full-time job, but as of spring 2012, only 30 percent were employed full time. About 90 percent of these employees are on hourly wages. The median hourly wage for these first jobs was $7.50, barely above minimum wage.
Current Job. As compared with their first jobs, the high school graduates in this sample have progressed from starting hourly wages of $7.50 to $8.25 in their current jobs. The median wage for these graduates in their current jobs is $9.25 per hour. Seventy percent of these current jobs are temporary positions. Only 10 percent of these graduates hold jobs with an annual salary.
The Unemployed. Thirty percent of those surveyed are unemployed and looking for work. This finding is consistent with Bureau of Labor Statistics' data (www) showing a 33 percent unemployment rate for young high school graduates not enrolled in college between 2010 and 2011.
Workforce Preparation. Even though 70 percent of those surveyed say they enjoyed their high school experience, they are much less persuaded that their education prepared them adequately for their transition to the workforce. Half of the graduates reported that high school did a poor job of preparing them for their first jobs.
College Plans. Many of these students say their college aspirations have foundered, usually due to costs or the needs to work.
Expectations for the Future. There is great pessimism among high school graduates about what the future holds for them. Graduates expecting their generation to do less well financially than the one before them outnumber those who expect to do better by a margin of four to one. Most believe they are less prepared than the previous generation to enter the workforce.
From the OVAE Connection, newsletter of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U. S. Department of Education, July 19, 2012
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