Archive for ‘jobs after college’

September 26, 2014

Women place greater importance on steady employment when seeking a spouse

by Grace

Almost twice as many women as men consider it “very important” that their future spouse have a “steady job”.

… Never-married women place a great deal of importance on finding someone who has a steady job—fully 78% say this would be very important to them in choosing a spouse or partner. For never-married men, someone who shares their ideas about raising children is more important in choosing a spouse than someone who has a steady job.

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Could it be that women still think they’d like to stop working when they have children?  Yes.  One recent survey found that 84% of working women want to stay home to raise their children.

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Wendy Wang and Kim Parker, “Record Share of Americans Have Never Married”, Pew Social Trends, September 24, 2014.

September 24, 2014

Negative consequences of believing the STEM shortage myth

by Grace

In his book Falling Behind: Boom, Bust & the Global Race for Scientific Talent, author Michael Teitelbaum challenges the commonly held belief that the United States suffers from a shortage of STEM workers.

The truth is that there is little credible evidence of the claimed widespread shortages in the U.S. science and engineering workforce….

A compelling body of research is now available, from many leading academic researchers and from respected research organizations such as the National Bureau of Economic Research, the RAND Corporation, and the Urban Institute. No one has been able to find any evidence indicating current widespread labor market shortages or hiring difficulties in science and engineering occupations that require bachelors degrees or higher, although some are forecasting high growth in occupations that require post-high school training but not a bachelors degree. All have concluded that U.S. higher education produces far more science and engineering graduates annually than there are S&E job openings—the only disagreement is whether it is 100 percent or 200 percent more. Were there to be a genuine shortage at present, there would be evidence of employers raising wage offers to attract the scientists and engineers they want. But the evidence points in the other direction: Most studies report that real wages in many—but not all—science and engineering occupations have been flat or slow-growing, and unemployment as high or higher than in many comparably-skilled occupations.

Although some STEM fields are booming and employers find it difficult to fill professional positions, by no means is that true across the board.

Teitelbaum lists five episodes of STEM ‘“alarm/boom/bust” cycles since World War II’ where in all cases government policies intended to address false claims of shortages only exacerbated the problem.

… Each lasted about 10 to 15 years, and was initiated by alarms of “shortages,” followed by policies to increase the supply of scientists and engineers. Unfortunately most were followed by painful busts—mass layoffs, hiring freezes, and funding cuts that inflicted severe damage to careers of both mature professionals and the booming numbers of emerging graduates, while also discouraging new entrants to these fields.

The current administration has fallen into the same trap, pushing for more STEM graduates who may actually find jobs in short supply.  This year New York began allocating taxpayer funds to encourage college students to pursue STEM majors.

Ignoring “science-based evidence” produces “large unintended costs”.

Ironically the vigorous claims of shortages concern occupations in science and engineering, yet manage to ignore or reject most of the science-based evidence on the subject. The repeated past cycles of “alarm/boom/bust” have misallocated public and private resources by periodically expanding higher education in science and engineering beyond levels for which there were attractive career opportunities. In so doing they produced large unintended costs for those talented students who devoted many years of advanced education to prepare for careers that turned out to be unattractive by the time they graduated, or who later experienced massive layoffs in mid-career with few prospects to be rehired.

George Leef is another critic of these government interventions.

… Strong business and educational groups lobby for nice-sounding policies that benefit themselves, frequently employing dubious arguments and misleading claims. The costs of the resulting pro-STEM policies are dispersed among the public, and fall particularly hard on the unfortunate individuals who invest a lot of money and years of their lives in pursuit of credentials that are apt to become almost worthless.

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Michael S. Teitelbaum, “The Myth of the Science and Engineering Shortage”, The Atlantic, March 19 2014.

George Leef, “True Or False: America Desperately Needs More STEM Workers”, Forbes, June 6, 2014.

September 10, 2014

The jobless recovery in one chart

by Grace

An illustration of our jobless recovery from economics professor Mark J. Perry

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Bottom Line: The US has been producing new record-high levels of GDP in almost every quarter since Q3 2011, and we are now producing 7.65% (and $1.14 trillion) more real GDP today than in late 2007. But we are producing that record-setting level of real output with a quarter-million fewer workers than in 2007. One explanation for America’s record-high output with 227,000 fewer workers is that the Great Recession facilitated what might be one of the greatest expansions of worker productivity in US history. The fact that we’ve been able to greatly expand national output with fewer inputs (workers) represents a huge increase in economic efficiency, but has also left us with a lingering “jobless recovery” and an economy that is struggling to create new, post-recession employment opportunities for millions of Americans.

Labor force participation remains low.

Perry explains that he is using the “more comprehensive measure of total civilian employment” instead of the total payroll number, which recently climbed up to pre-recession levels  However, his bigger point is supported by the troubling increase in the working age population during that time.

As good as that might sound, surpassing the previous high-water mark in terms of payroll employment is cold comfort for recent graduates and other new entrants into the work force, as well as for the legions of Americans who lost their jobs in the Great Recession. While payrolls may be back to where they were before the downturn, the working age population has risen by roughly 15 million over the same period.

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Mark J. Perry, “The current state of the US economy in one chart”, Carpe Diem, September 5, 2014.

September 4, 2014

Women value high grades over high salaries

by Grace

Female college students seem to value good grades over high salaries.  This premise lead Catherine Rampell to advise women to “embrace the B’s in college to make more later”.

A message to the nation’s women: Stop trying to be straight-A students.

No, not because you might intimidate easily emasculated future husbands. Because, by focusing so much on grades, you might be limiting your earning and learning potential.

The college majors that tend to lead to the most profitable professions are also the stingiest about awarding A’s. Science departments grade, on a four-point scale, an average of 0.4 points lower than humanities departments, according to a 2010 analysis of national grading data by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy. And two new research studies suggest that women might be abandoning these lucrative disciplines precisely because they’re terrified of getting B’s.

Slipping grades seem to discourage women from pursuing their chosen careers while men were not similarly deterred.

Claudia Goldin, an economics professor at Harvard, has been examining why so few women major in her field. The majority of new college grads are female, yet women receive only 29 percent of bachelor’s degrees in economics each year.

Goldin looked at how grades awarded in an introductory economics class affected the chance that a student would ultimately major in the subject. She found that the likelihood a woman would major in economics dropped steadily as her grade fell: Women who received a B in Econ 101, for example, were about half as likely as women who received A’s to stick with the discipline. The same discouragement gradient didn’t exist for men. Of Econ 101 students, men who received A’s were about equally as likely as men who received B’s to concentrate in the dismal science.

Another research project, led by Peter Arcidiacono at Duke University, is finding similar trends in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Other research confirms that perfectionism holds women back in the workplace.

… The perils of feminine self-doubt — and how they impact women’s professional aspirations — are the subject of a new book, The Confidence Code, by journalists (and recovering self-doubters) Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.

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Catherine Rampell, “Women should embrace the B’s in college to make more later”, Washington Post, March 10, 2014

Jessica Bennett, “It’s Not You, It’s Science: How Perfectionism Holds Women Back”, Time, April 22, 2014.

September 3, 2014

Michigan governor celebrated Labor Day accompanied by a robot

by Grace

Do robots celebrate Labor Day?

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in the Labor Day walk across the Mackinac Bridge and they were joined by one robot.

Gov. Rick Snyder led the annual trek Monday across the 5-mile-long bridge linking Michigan’s two peninsulas. He walked with a robot constructed for the occasion by the FIRST robotics team from Macomb International Academy in the town of Armada.

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Governor Snyder signed Michigan’s right to work law earlier this year, leading this comment by the Daily Kos:

Maybe after right-to-work he couldn’t find any real people to walk with.

The question of how robots will affect job growth remains unsettled.

… Optimists say that more robots will lead to greater productivity and economic growth, while pessimists complain that huge swaths of the labor force will see their employment options automated out of existence.

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August 26, 2014

‘The intern has become the new entry-level hire’

by Grace

Because of technology, many entry-level jobs require more advanced skills.  This means that internships, either unpaid or low-paid, have sometimes become the new entry-level jobs.

Companies bruised by the recession have stayed lean by automating and outsourcing core functions while slashing training budgets and payrolls. But in an effort to cut costs, some companies also have cut entry-level jobs that serve as a crucial first step on the path to a professional career. And others have made the responsibilities for first-timers more sophisticated, raising the bar for new graduates, who are expected to arrive job-ready from day one.

Here’s how some entry-level accounting jobs now require sophisticated skills.

Four years ago, the Boston-based bank began an overhaul of its technology systems to cut costs and streamline operations. Now, as the project nears its end, the company is assessing how to employ fund accountants when some of their main assignments—such as calculating funds’ net asset values—have been automated, said Executive Vice President Kathy Horgan, who oversees talent management.

The job titles are the same, but the responsibilities have shifted significantly from a few years ago. Instead of memorizing 15 or 20 steps in a calculation process, fund accountants at the bank now must be able to identify anomalies, help resolve software glitches and figure out which other teams they should work with. In some cases, they must also call clients directly, Ms. Horgan said, putting a new premium on people skills.

At the same time that entry jobs are becoming more demanding, many employers are reducing their training budgets.

For example, training programs for sales jobs at major corporations regularly lasted two years in the 2000s, teaching the ins and outs of the products they were selling and explaining market trends for distributors and end users. Now, new hires would be lucky to get six months of ramp-up time, said Andrea Dixon, executive director of Baylor University’s Center for Professional Selling …

The squeeze in on for job seekers in some fields, while other areas have seen increases in entry-level jobs.

Negative outlook:  loan officers, insurance underwriters and credit analysts
Positive outlook:  computer systems analysts, public relations specialists, social-media managers

As always, luck plays a role in the job outlook for new college graduates.

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Lauren Weber & Melissa Korn, “Where Did All the Entry-Level Jobs Go?”, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 6, 2014.

July 29, 2014

Wages for recent college grads are not keeping up

by Grace

Wages are rising, but not for young grads

A new analysis from the San Francisco Fed finds entry-level earnings for new college grads — defined as working graduates age 21 to 25 — grew only by 6 percent from April 2007 to April 2014. In comparison, median weekly earnings for all workers grew two-and-a-half times as fast, at 15 percent. And while recent grads tend to fall behind after any recession, the gap since the Great Recession has been both wide and long-lasting.

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Is this cyclical or structural?

There are differences of opinion about whether this stagnation is due to a short-term economic downturn or arises from a more fundamental problem, “like a mismatch between recent grads’ skills and open positions”.

One thing that seems clear is that as the percentage of the population with college degrees continues to increase,  there are “too many college graduates chasing too few college-level jobs”.

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Related:  “Technological advancements stunt job growth – ‘the great paradox of our era'”

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Danielle Kurtzleben, “Young college grads’ wage growth is falling farther and farther behind”, Vox, July 21, 2014.

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July 28, 2014

Right-tail gender disparity of SAT math scores

by Grace

Could this be one of the reasons women are underrepresented in engineering and computer science?

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2. Chart of the Day above illustrates graphically one of the reasons that women are under-represented in the more mathematically intensive STEM fields like engineering and computer science. In 2013, boys out-performed girls for perfect scores of 800 on the math SAT test by a male-female ratio of 1.88 to 1 (188 boys for every 100 girls), and for a near-perfect score of 790 by a ratio of exactly 2 to 1.

These facts make some people uncomfortable, as shown by the criticism Larry Summers received when he remarked on the right-tail disparity in men’s math scores.

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Mark J. Perry, “Monday afternoon linkage”, Carpe Diem, July 21, 2014.

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July 22, 2014

Ten career paths you may want to avoid

by Grace

A new study released Tuesday by job-search site CareerCast.com, lists the 10 top endangered jobs in the U.S. Using data on 200 jobs from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerCast projected the least promising career paths in terms of future employment growth, income potential and existing unemployment in the job field.

  1. Mail carrier
  2. Farmer
  3. Meter reader
  4. Newspaper reporter
  5. Travel agent
  6. Lumberjack
  7. Flight Attendant
  8. Drill-Press Operator
  9. Printing Worker
  10. Tax Examiner and Collector

“The common theme in these jobs is paper,” says Tony Lee, publisher of CareerCast.

There is simply less demand for the type of work represented by these jobs, in most cases due to technological advances.

Since I have recently been spending many frustrating hours planning my summer vacation, I wish travel agents would make a comeback.  Apparently there is a trend toward a fee-for-service model among travel agents, particularly in the FIT (Flexible Independent Travel) market.  Maybe next time I’m planning a family vacation I’ll seek out a travel agent to make my life easier.

I’m particularly concerned to see that newspaper reporter jobs made this list since I have a son who is an aspiring journalist.  Perhaps the growing proliferation of online news sources will boost job growth in that area.  That may be optimistic thinking, but you can’t blame a mom for hoping.

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Kathleen Madigan, The 10 Most Endangered Jobs (Or, Why You Are Reading This Online), Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2014.

July 18, 2014

New York railroad workers will finally contribute to their health insurance

by Grace

At the last minute a strike by Long Island Rail Road workers was averted when they agreed to begin contributing to their health insurance and pensions.

Travelers on the Long Island Rail Road were spared a debilitating midsummer strike on Thursday, when the railroad and its unions reached an agreement three days before a planned walkout….

The unions received raises of 17 percent over six and a half years. But following a national trend in which workers shoulder an increasing share of their health costs, the railroad employees will, for the first time, contribute a portion of their pay, 2 percent, toward their health coverage.

The union had earlier rejected a proposal requiring “employees to contribute 2 percent of regular pay toward health care costs and pensions”.  This seemed out of touch with the reality of what most of their riders have to deal with.

In the private sector, the average percent of health premium paid by employees is 16% for individual coverage and 27% for family coverage. 

A talk show host who is usually on the side of unions had scornfully remarked that replacement workers could easily be found for these plum jobs that consisted mainly of “punching tickets”.

The New York Post wrote that the average LIRR worker makes $87,182 annually. Moreover, a third of the unionized workers make over $100,000. They get free health care and two pensions, but still, they want more.

Related:  “Quick Links – Public pension problems round-up” (Cost of College)

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Matt Flegenheimer, “L.I.R.R. Strike Is Averted After Cuomo Intervenes in Labor Talks”, New York Times, July 17, 2014.

Maria Vultaggio, “LIRR Strike 2014: Long Island Commuters And Conductors React To Possible Walkout”, International Business Times, July 14 2014.

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