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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Students stay in school to avoid job market

Every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out a jobs report describing the current job climate. Christine Powell will analyze and contextualize the report each month for Stony Brook University students.

With the presidential election fast approaching, the data published last week in the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report, one of the most heavily weighed indicators of the state of the economy, have received increased attention.

The two pieces of information that tend to attract the most focus when the report is released are the unemployment rate and the number of added jobs.

August’s numbers, which were released on Friday, show that the unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in July.

However, the government only considers people unemployed if they have actively searched for work in the past four weeks, and the findings demonstrate that the percentage dropped because more people gave up their search for a job.

Employers also added 96,000 jobs in the month of August, according to the government. The average monthly employment growth for the year 2012 so far has been 139,000, compared to a monthly average of 153,000 in 2011. These two figures, however, are broad national averages and are not specifically applicable to college students.

The report also noted that many young people are staying in school to avoid the weak job market.

Marianna Savoca, director of the Career Center at Stony Brook University, said that in recent years, her office has seen an increase in the number of students pursuing a graduate degree.

“That’s an indicator that if college students are feeling pressure they decide to stay in school and wait it out,” Savoca said. “Our philosophy here in the Career Center is that waiting out the economy by attending grad school is not a good idea.”

A survey conducted in March by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a professional association that collects data about employment among college educated young people, showed that 32.7 percent of employers plan to hire more recent graduates this fall than they did last year, and 40.9 percent said they plan to hire the same amount—welcome news for those students feeling pressure.

While Savoca said that she encourages students to go to graduate school, they should only pursue higher degrees if doing so is purposeful, not to prolong entering the job market.

“While a graduate degree can be an aspect of a student’s marketability, marketability does not come only from a degree,” Savoca said.

Savoca also said that it is important to remember that each industry varies, and job opportunities and salaries are dependent on what industry students are looking to enter. This means, she said, that a higher degree does not necessarily lend to higher salary.

The average salary for a candidate with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering is $79,923, according to In comparison, the average salary for someone with a master’s degree in social work is $48,547, according to the website.

“A master’s degree does not always equal more money right away,” Savoca said. “Data shows that those with graduate degrees will earn more money over time, but it is entirely industry specific.”

Michael Zweig, a professor of economics and director of the Center for the Study of Working Class Life at SBU, said that despite the month-to-month variations of a weak and slow-recovering economy, the long-term trends show stable improvement.

“Let’s not get completely out of joint when something goes up or goes down in one particular month,” Zweig said.

The report also demonstrated that the labor force participation rate has dropped to 63.5 percent, which is a 31-year low. The labor force participation is a measure of the number of people who are in the labor force (those who are either employed or looking for employment) as a fraction of the population. Zweig said that the makeup of the population affects that number.

“As we’ve seen there is a larger fraction of young people who are in school compared to the past, and a larger fraction of the population is retired now because of the aging of the population and the baby boomers,” Zweig said. “It follows, then, because you’ve got growing fractions of the population who are not in the labor force, that you have fewer people as a percentage working, and that’s the number that you see.”

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