High-stakes ‘fiscal cliff’ heightens students’ job worries
While elected officials in Washington renew their efforts to solve the nation’s financial challenges, students preparing for graduation are increasingly worried about their job prospects in an uncertain economy.
With youth unemployment rate at 10.8 percent – considerably higher than the national average of 7.8 – graduating students also face the prospect of being under-employed. In that environment, the possibility of going over the “fiscal cliff” at the end of the year raised even more concerns among students on the verge of completing their college degrees.
“I’ve already felt the struggle,” College of William and Mary senior Melanie Levine said. “And compared to before the economic downturn, these days, I feel like we’re all just clawing to get a job offer.”
Before the fiscal cliff crisis was addressed in the new year, the Congressional Budget Office had projected that allowing the spending cuts and tax increases to happen would overwhelm the still-sluggish economy. Additionally, a recent report by George Mason University economist Stephen Fuller and Chmura Economics and Analytics found that the sequester could cause as many as 2.14 million job losses, as well as reduced personal workforce earnings by $109.4 billion.
Over 617,000 of the job losses, according to the study’s estimates, would be among federal government employees alone. But the effects of the cuts wouldn’t be limited to the direct cuts to federal spending. Industries that rely upon the federal government’s activity, like contractors and lobbying firms, would be expected to also respond accordingly.
“The uncertainty is a wet blanket on economic vitality. Businesses are sitting on the sidelines fearful that something will happen, and are not investing and not hiring,” said Mark Kennedy, the director of the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management and former Minnesota Republican congressman.
Career experts said college students graduating in 2013 will also continue to face the challenge of competing with people who are older and have more experience for the same jobs. They maintained that students should be prepared to do another internship or temporary position as a means of gaining more professional skills – and that could translate into something full-time.
“Lots of companies are in a holding pattern right now. The economy is likely going to improve eventually, but students have to assume that things will stay the same and make themselves stand out with the necessary skills,” said national career consultant J.T. O’Donnell. “Companies do not want to lose young people once they’re trained.”
Other students said a deal to avert the fiscal cliff - especially after a long and contentious election cycle - would also boost their confidence in their political system given the gridlock that has marked the current Congress. College of William and Mary senior Alex Cooper, who aspires to work in international development, said that the lack of clarity on how his field will be affected – like cuts to the State Department and agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development – has only made job searching more difficult.
“It would be refreshing to see that both sides can compromise. And if they can compromise, I hope it’s in a way that can also be helpful for my job prospects,” Cooper said.