40 years ago in 1973, as a senior in high school, I dropped out of school to work full-time in a union sheet metal shop in Massachusetts to earn $7.50 an hour --- which is more than the minimum wage is today. In today's dollars, that would be $39.51 an hour. I received on-the-job training, and with time and in-house seniority, I could move up to better paying jobs. That was before all our manufacturing was offshored overseas.
I used to work Monday through Friday, from 7 am to 3:30 pm with 30 minutes off for lunch (with two 10 minute breaks in between). Every Saturday there were 4 hours of over-time available whenever I needed a little extra money in my pocket. I was paid once a week on Fridays after work. I also had healthcare benefits and a pension plan --- not to mention paid sick days and vacation time.
Today, $39.51 an hour (plus benefits) would be considered a dream job...especially for a high school graduate, and even more so for a high school dropout. These days, and in this brutal economy, those opportunities of yesteryear no longer exist for those who are first entering the work force.
Today college graduates are having a hard time finding work as a bartender or cab driver --- and may be working at Walmart earning $9.00 an hour --- which would only be $1.71 in 1973 (when the minimum wage was $1.60).
According to the NCES, a research arm of the U.S. Education Department, the U.S. had approximately 18 million high school graduates from 2008 to 2013. We had a record 3.4 million high school graduates this year alone, and currently there are only 3.7 million job openings for 11.3 million counted unemployed. For a high school graduate, the labor market is brutal.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 48.8 percent of the 3.2 million youth who graduated from high school last year were "in the labor force" (either working or looking for work).
The labor force participation rate for recent high school graduates (as of April 22, 2013) who were enrolled in college was 38.2 percent. Recent high school graduates who were enrolled as full-time college students were about half as likely to be in the labor force (33.9 percent) as were their peers enrolled part time (69.2 percent).
This past April the BLS reported that 66.2 percent of 2012 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities in the U.S. --- and that of the most recent high school graduates (if not enrolled in college) 69.6 percent of those would be working or looking for work.
Forbes: "Dear High School graduate: Everything you've been told is false."
Not only are there not a plethora of decent-paying jobs just waiting for you upon graduation, there are structural changes afoot in the U.S. economy making your human labor “incidental.” You see it in the increased operating efficiencies of corporations across the fruited plain, almost all of whom have enjoyed record profits post-2008 without an appreciable increase in their human labor pool. No doubt you’ve been told that more (and better targeted) skill sets are the expensive answer to your job predicament. Unfortunately, only 21% of all jobs in the U.S. require a bachelor’s degree or higher. In addition, more than half of recent college graduates are working in an occupation that does not require a college education.
L.A. Times: "College-educated workers are taking jobs that don't require degrees."
College graduates are tending bar and driving taxis, pushing people without degrees out of those jobs. As more college graduates have flooded the market, employers are able to offer lower wages. The earnings of college grads have fallen about 13% in the last decade. Because college is so expensive, many [high school] graduates are facing a dilemma: If they go to college, they still might not get a job that requires a college degree and they'll be on the hook for big student loan payments. But if they don't go to college, they might be pushed out of entry-level jobs by overqualified college graduates who can't find other work.
New York Times: "More young Americans out of High School are also out of work."
For this generation of young people, the future looks bleak. Only one in six is working full time. Three out of five live with their parents or other relatives. A large majority (73 percent) think they need more education to find a successful career.
For a high school graduate, the labor market is brutal --- so imagine being a high school dropout. Labor statistics shows that dropouts are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as a high school graduate (or a holder of a GED). High school dropouts would also be competing for the same jobs that those with college degrees are taking that don't require a college degree.
In a 14-page report last February by Rutgers - John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, they note that only 27% of high school graduates were working full time (twice the level of unemployment 10 years ago -- and earning lower wages as well), while 15% worked part-time jobs (but wanted full-time work). Many were only temporary jobs. A whopping 44% of high school students were unemployed --- who either looking or not looking for work. (From the report, see the chart below)
Many times in the past, when jobs were scarce, one could always enlist in a branch of the military --- where one could also seek college benefits through the VA. But it's not so easy now, especially with the wars in the Middle East winding down. The poor job market was a big reason why so many military service personnel had re-enlisted since 2008. Getting into the military these days is getting tougher because just like in the private-sector, the military is also seeking higher-skilled recruits. For a high school graduate, the labor market is brutal.
While although college increases one's chance of landing a job, not everyone can attend college, even though Obama has set a goal to increase the nation's number of college graduates by 50 percent by 2020. But while the increased high school graduation rates show that more students are completing secondary education, fewer than half of those in the class of 2012 were "college ready" as determined by the College Board last fall. (So therefore, considering the current job market, they were also not qualified to drive a cab or tend a bar.)
Question: From the summer of 2008 to the summer of 2013, how many NET new jobs were created to re-employ the 8.7 million who lost jobs during the Great Recession --- all while 18 million young people had been graduating from high school?
Answer: Not nearly enough. And from this point going forward, I predict that there never will be --- because offshoring will continue, and the CEOs and Wall Street will only get greedier. I see very few politicians attempting to interject any checks or balances. I thank the good Lord I didn't just graduate in 2013, otherwise, I don't know how I would have survived as long as I have already.