The reality is setting in now that I am a senior and I am going to have to get a job. Don’t get me wrong: It can be delayed by graduate school or even a long trip to find myself, but the cold, hard reality eventually will set in. Unless you have just beat the odds and won the Florida Lottery or find yourself independently wealthy, I presume you are in the same situation.
The odds aren’t totally against us, since most individuals reading this will receive a college degree. Isn’t that worth something? When looking at data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the mean average earnings of both male and female college graduates are greater than those who have not received a degree. There is no real surprise there.
So we have it made, right? Well, not exactly. Thanks to the profit maximization motive of companies, we are at odds with them in a sense. Sure, employers need enterprising and an effective labor force, but capitalism necessitates increasing profits to remain competitive and to pacify shareholders. This leads to the natural conclusion that firms will attempt to limit labor costs, including keeping wages low.
One way to lower labor costs is to provide skimpy or non-existent health care to employees. Barbara Ehrenreich, who visited campus on Wednesday to speak to students, wrote in her book Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream that “the cost of health insurance has become a major disincentive to job creation.” It is more cost effective for companies to hire temporary or part-time workers whose compensation doesn’t include such costly benefits.
Ehrenreich provides a unique perspective on the labor market, not merely as a pundit with little perspective, but as someone who has struggled within it. In the book previously mentioned, she attempted to gain employment in white-collar America armed with an embellished resume and using her maiden name. Despite spending more than $6,000 on training, coaching and even an image makeover, she was no closer to employment.
Needless to say, I am a little worried about my job prospects realizing that I certainly don’t have $6,000 stashed away for job-search expenses or the patience to read endless employment “for dummies” books. Certainly, her experience will not be exactly like mine, but it is a little scary to think she couldn’t find employment after essentially making up her resume. I have to live with mine.
All this talk about reality in the job market doesn’t mean there is absolutely no hope. No doubt the Career Center meets with thousands of people just like me who are nervous about stepping out into the real world. They probably have a checklist of things I should have started to do when I began teething, but it cannot hurt to give visiting the Career Center a try.
In addition, maybe there is hope since the unemployment rate in Florida was a low 3.4 percent in October, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida’s unemployment rate decreased more than any other state’s during the past year. However, I am not totally convinced these numbers are such great things for me. They make for great news, but what kind of jobs are being created?
As the St. Petersburg Times recently reported, University of Massachusetts economists found that “though work is plentiful in the state (of Florida), the quality of the jobs ranked among the worst in the country, ahead of only Arkansas and New Mexico.” If you are curious what caused the state’s job quality to be deemed awful, it was low wages and lack of health care and retirement benefits. See a theme here?
Of course, all this talk could be used to advocate universal health care or a living wage for all Americans, both of which I advocate. However, the truth is, they don’t exist in this country. Instead, I am on my own, competing in the job market not only to get the best benefits package from an employer, but also competing with my fellow job seekers.
Aaron Hill is a senior majoring in economics.