During and After College: The Worst Employment Market Since the Great Depression, What Can You Do?

If you’re a soon-to-be or current college student, or if you’re a recent graduate, nobody thought you’d be facing the job market you’re now facing before coronavirus.

The unemployment rate was just 3.5% in February. In March and April it skyrocketed to 14.7%. It’ll likely be even higher when May’s rate is published. So it’s no-surprise if you’re having trouble finding a job, or if a previous job offer’s been rescinded.

The what should you do now?

Summer Employment

Keep looking for summer jobs, but be smart. We’ve noted before that some fast food restaurants can be good places to work. They, and certain other employers, provide benefits to help employees pay for college.

Take Taco Bell. It needs 30,000 summer employees. And it’s Live Más program offers scholarships, tuition reimbursements, free academic coaching, and free financial advising to help you make your college money stretch further.

Permanent Jobs

Right now you may not be able to find a job that’ll start you on the career path you’ve wanted. But you’ve got to pay for food and shelter and, if you borrowed for college, you’re monthly payments will start in the next 6 – 8 months.

So it’s essential to be creative, flexible, patient, and persistent in job searching. Ask your college and its placement office to help you network with alumni and other well-placed professionals. And check out employers that provide essential services — not just in emergency responses and health care — but also in engineering, science, technology, utilities, etc.

You don’t have a degree that makes such organizations obvious choices? That’s OK. They need accountants, customer service staff, and other “layperson” workers, too.

Also think about jobs you can do from home, using the internet and telecommunications technology that’s probably second nature to you but not to many older job applicants.

Unemployment Benefits

These are a joint federal-state partnership for workers who involuntarily lose their jobs and are seeking new employment.

In normal times, many students and new graduates wouldn’t qualify for unemployment benefits because about half the states require applicants to have recently worked hours and earned amounts that exceed those of part-time employees. States also offer different weekly benefit amounts for different numbers of weeks.

However, the March 27 CARES Act temporarily broadened unemployment benefit eligibility, extended time periods, an increased benefit amounts for many Americans.

Use the U.S. Labor Department’s CareerOneStop website to research and apply for unemployment benefits in your state. And if you’re eligible, apply right away. States are often slow to process and pay them, and the temporary CARES Act enhancements expire July 31.

Follow the College Affordability Solutions website for weekly articles about financial strategies to use before, during, and after college.

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