Marching into a Recession: Class of 2012 Follows Generations Before

Recessions, ebb and flow. Between 1948 and 2011, there have been 10 recessions, according the National Bureau of Economic Research1.  That means there are many people in the U.S. who have been in all 10 recessions and made their  way out. The BLS describes a recession as: “A general slowdown in economic activity, a downturn in the business cycle, a reduction in the amount of goods and services produced and sold.”

In the early 1980s, when I graduated from college, I entered an economy with similar conditions to today’s graduates. I was entering a workforce with high unemployment rates (1982-3 was the last time unemployment rates rose above 10%2) and limited job openings. Some Americans even held a familiar sentiment to today’s Occupy Movement protestors on taxes, that President Reagan’s budget cuts were hurting the poor and benefitting the rich3.

In the most recent recession, among the many things we hope turn around like student loan debt, housing foreclosures, etc, we are waiting for more job creation and more skilled workers to fill those positions. Though the two recessions may have had different catalysts and recovery plans, they share a similar reality: There are many unemployed or underemployed workers looking to fill a limited number of job openings. The recent growth in earnings posted last quarter by many corporations come from higher profits with very few jobs added due to so many jobs off shore at companies like FoxCon.

Recessions show that people and the economy are resilient and they recover. As high school students approach graduation, they are encouraged to think about their upcoming years in college with a connection to their future career. What do they want to get out of college? What experiences can they have in college that can directly help them get ahead in the professional world? There are college students who are not only making an early connection between college and career, they are also creating jobs for themselves. There are also students who sleep through college and don’t set any professional expectations for themselves. These students leave college without  building the professional skills of wherewithal, fortitude and grit which success in the working world requires.

Leaving the comfort of college for an unstable economy can be a foreboding leap.  Take heart.  Many who have come before you have bravely faced their fears only to experience the strength, capability and purpose that their unique qualities reveal.

1“Cycles,” The National Bureau of Economic Research.



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