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Pharoh Martin NNPA National Correspondent
Published: 29 April 2009

WASHINGTON (NNPA)- The mangled state of today's economy isn't giving this year's class of graduating college students much optimism about securing employment after they cross that stage.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that as many 1.4 million college graduates are about to enter a severely contracted job market that seems to be getting worse.
For many, the anxiety of figuring out life after school, in some ways, trumps the joys of finishing the four-year college grind. The worries are worse for Black graduates, who are historically among the first fired and the last hired, according to statistics.
Depressing job prospects are leading many African-American grads in search of alternatives to the traditional 9-to-5.
 ''I've taken a job teaching English in South Korea,'' said Atrice Williams, preparing to graduate from Washington, D.C.-based Howard University May 9. Williams, about to get a degree in psychology, is joining Asia Teachers, an organization that places Americans in teaching jobs in the East Asian peninsula. ''I had classmates who graduated last year go work in Korea so I inquired about it in November and a recruiter contacted me."
Williams had planned to work in the non-profit sector, but the government's cutback of funding for non-profit organizations has left that sector short on jobs and the college student stuck looking for a plan B.
Her colleagues already teaching in Korea are getting weary because they will be returning home to a job market that has gotten worse than when they left, Williams says.
Employers expect to hire 22 percent fewer new grads from the college Class of 2009 than they actually hired from the Class of 2008, according to a new study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).
''We are hearing that more [graduates] will be going to graduate school and entering volunteer organizations like the Peace Corps and Teach for America,'' said Andrea Koncz, NACE manager of Employment Information.
Other graduates like graphic designer Faqir Abdul-Hakim is still searching for a post-graduation solution. Since starting his job search when he graduated the previous semester in December the 23-year-old Howard alum has applied to more than 35 advertising and marketing jobs.
''You're competing against experience,'' Abdul-Hakim said referring to the glut of more experienced laid-off workers applying for the same entry level positions as he is.
Abdul-Hakim spends upwards to four hours a day searching for jobs, going to interviews and modifying his resume. He even shaved dreadlocks that he's been growing for years in an effort, in part, to appear what some perceive as more professional.
The Atlanta native says that it's gotten to the point where he has expanded his search to look for fellowships and programs that allow him to go back to school and get more training. He's also considering teaching in Japan or joining some sort of volunteer organization.
The employment picture for Black college students has changed significantly over the past two years. In March 2007, the unemployment rate for African-Americans with four-year degrees was a modest 2.7 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Since that time unemployment among college-educated Blacks skyrocketed almost three fold to 7.2 percent, which is significantly higher than all other racial groups. At 3.8 percent the jobless rate for Whites with college degrees is almost half the rate of their Black counterparts.
Given the vast difference, the study suggests that employment discrimination may have played a considerable part in the gross disparity.  
The news hasn't been all bad. Some grads have been able to maneuver into jobs in their field despite the unprecedented economy slump.
After completing two internships Andre Jeffers was successful in getting a full-time job offer as an investment banker with long-time Wall Street powerhouse Lehman Brothers eight months before his graduation date.
A month later, the Howard finance major watched his job security go in flames as the American financial sector seemingly fell apart overnight and news headlines about his New York-based company going bankrupt dominated media outlets.
On Sept. 15, 2008, Lehman brothers filed the largest bankruptcy filing in US history- concurrently giving the Dow Jones Industrial Average it's most dramatic point loss since 9/11 and leaving prospective employees like Jeffers' in limbo.
''It was devastating,'' Jeffers said. ''After Lehman Brothers went bankrupt I went looking for other jobs.''
Major global financial services provider Barclays PLC purchased the core businesses of Lehman Brothers and, fortunately, still honored the 21-year-old's job offer.
Within weeks federal legislators passed the Troubled Assets Relief Program in an attempt to stabilize the financial system. But, the legislation prohibited companies receiving taxpayer funds to fill jobs with foreign workers if an American worker that held that position was laid off, Jeffers recalls.
He became worried because he was an international student from the Caribbean island Trinidad and Tobago.
He is obviously relieved - Barclays didn't need a bailout. Jeffers starts his job on July 6.

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