This weekend, college seniors and their families will hear a lot of stirring words from commencement speakers as graduation season gets into full swing.
What comes next for many will be a little less stirring: the job hunt.
"The Class of 2014 is a little bit better off than the few classes who came before," says researcher Alyssa Davis, co-author of a report, 'The Class of 2014: The Weak Economy is Idling Too Many Young Graduates,' for the Economic Policy Institute. "Since the recession, this has become the new normal, with a weak job market, stagnant wages, high unemployment and underemployment."
Unemployment for young college graduates is 8.5 percent, compared to 5.5 percent in 2007. For young high school graduates, the comparison is 22.9 percent to 15.9 percent.
Employers do plan to hire more than last year—an increase of 8.6 percent is projected in a survey of employers by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). But still, rates of involuntary part-time work, unskilled and low-wage work are up for college graduates. And, according to EPI's research, many more young people are now out of the labor force entirely—unemployed and not looking for work or attending school—than before the recession.
Management consulting firm Accenture recently surveyed Class of '14 members about their post-college expectations. Managing director Katherine LaVelle says, at least today's college students are prepared—having come of age as teenagers and early-twenty-somethings in an unforgiving economy that hasn't improved quickly or dramatically. She says many have picked their majors and internships with job prospects in mind.
"They've done their homework, they understand the marketplace they're in, and they're ready to tackle it," says LaVelle.
Still, says LaVelle, they're full of unrealistic expectations. Eighty percent think their first employer will provide a formal training program, and roughly the same percentage think they'll make more than $25,000-a-year. But the Accenture survey finds that only half that many graduates from the classes of 2012 and 2013 actually got training or earned that much.
And 46 percent of recent graduates consider themselves underemployed, working in jobs that don't require the education and training they received in college.
There's a battle brewing in the South China Sea. Ownership of territory near the Paracel Islands is disputed, and after China moved an oil drilling rig into the area, Vietnam sent ships to investigate.
The Chinese rammed the Vietnamese crafts and shot them with water cannons, but this fight is a lot bigger than one Chinese oil rig.
"It involves not just China and Vietnam, but also Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia," says Taylor Fravel, a professor of political science at MIT. Fravel notes that border disputes in the area have been going on for decades and this is China's way of trying to demonstrate its claim to the territory.
"China is desperate for domestic sources of energy," says Ernie Bower, senior adviser for Southeast Asia Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Bower says there's potentially more gas under the waters in the disputed territories than in the Gulf of Mexico, and more oil than in Alaska. The U.S. Geological survey says it's likely there are 2.5 billion barrels of oil, yet to be tapped in the area.
"People have been shot at and killed before between these two countries on these very waters," Bower says, noting the fight is also about fish, a source of protein to feed enormous populations.
It's a very real dispute for the Vietnamese, says Bowers, with the location where the Chinese attacked the Vietnamese ships just 120 miles off its shore.
"And the Vietnamese are rightly concerned about their sovereignty."
Here in the New York Bureau of Marketplace, we're getting ready for brunch. We even have the fixings for mimosas.
Yes, in the middle of the week. And, yes, in the middle of a work day.
But brunch, or really "Marketplace Brunch" is one of the segments we're trying out for our new show, Marketplace Weekend. The idea is to take some of the really smart and creative people inside the Marketplace family, and have the kind of conversation you might have over a meal with your friends... but do it on the radio.
So I'll be gathering in the studio with people like Stacey Vanek Smith, Sabri Ben-Achour and Mark Garrison, to talk about what they're covering. And probably more importantly: what's on their mind as they look ahead to the week that's coming up.
All this is part of how you create a new show: You come up with ideas for segments, try them out, and see how they sound. Earlier, we tried a segment that took responses from Twitter and Facebook, and folded them into a personal finance conversation. I'll let you into a secret: it sounded awful! Nobody (even my mother) wants to listen to me reading a bunch of tweets. So we reworked it, with a listener calling in to talk about her student loan debt. And that version was great!
We want to make sure that Marketplace Weekend is fun and dynamic, and that we never lose sight of where human experiences fit in economic stories.
A while back, we did a story on Marketplace Money that examined gentrification. It's a model for where we want to go with the new show.
We introduced listeners to Britty Krone, a lifelong Harlem resident. She took me on a tour of her neighborhood and told about the changes that were happening, and what it felt like to live through them.
Gentrification is a huge story: it touches on policy, politics, housing prices, race, and the changing nature of our cities. But at its heart, it's really a story about human beings. Brittny's example was a good reminder of that.
As we create this new show, we want to keep doing stories like that: complex, multi-layered, and demanding a little extra thought and care.