It is college graduation season, and all over the country relieved students and their financially stretched families are enjoying the strains of Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" as they commemorate the completion of degrees.
This academic year alone, more than 3.5 million post-secondary degrees (associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctor's degrees) will be awarded, according to the National Center for Education Statistics,
If employment were growing fast enough to provide each of those graduates a job within the next 12 months, jobs would need to be created at roughly the pace of 300,000 per month. Sadly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth declined last month. Yesterday the BLS reported that a mere 115,000 nonfarm payroll jobs were added in April.
Of course, not every college graduate will seek employment — some will continue their education, others will start families. But when one adds the millions of graduates entering the workforce to the 12.5 million Americans that are out of work, the jobs picture continues to be bleak.
Despite the weakness in job creation, the unemployment rate actually fell from 8.2 percent to 8.1 percent. But that is almost entirely a function of hundreds of thousands of people dropping out of the labor force, some because they feel their luck has run out, others because they have decided to retire rather than keep looking for work.
Because the BLS report is estimated and frequently adjusted later on, it is hard to read too much into just one month's report. Previous job creation totals have, for example, been adjusted upward for a cumulative total of nearly 100,000 jobs over the last three months.
And this week's jobs report is just ambiguous enough to be a Rorschach test for one's views about what should be done about the economy. So, for example, although private payrolls grew by about 130,000 in April, government employment shrank. Previous recoveries have included faster growth in government employment. Those who think government should play a larger role in the recovery will use those facts to argue that increased government stimulus should be part of the equation. Others, however, will suggest that this is an appropriate, if austere, readjustment that is necessary to get public and private activity back into more fiscally sustainable balance.
After 34 months of so-called recovery, the economy has added just over 3 million private sector jobs. The more than 3 million college graduates from this year alone cannot wait 34 months to be absorbed into the workforce. But absent a clearer plan for vibrant economic growth, it appears that today's graduates can plan on far less pomp and a lot more circumstance.