ODU economists predict uncertain job market for college grads


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — This is an uncertain time for everyone, including college grads that have worked hard to get their degree, but are now stuck because jobs have implemented furloughs or closed during the COVID-19 crisis.

More than 20 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the beginning of March, according to the Department of Labor. Currently, more than 400,000 Virginians have initial unemployment claims. 

Unemployment rates are above 10% in Hampton Roads and Virginia, according to ODU Dragas Center of Economic Analysis and Policy.​

Economists debate if the nation will bounce back slower, like the Great Recession in the late 2000s, or will industries hire more quickly?

Dr. Robert McNab, an ODU professor and economist, calls this an unpredictable environment for the Class of 2020.

“For graduates coming into a marketplace that has just changed dramatically in 6 weeks. Resiliency is going to be important. There is going to be a lot of bad news. You have got to find the good news in the bad news. You have to find people helping each other. Build your network. Find professional mentors. Keep talking to your fellow graduates because you all will have a common story to share. We’re all in this together,” McNab said.

Either way grads can get to work now, to prepare.

“They can look at what’s happening, right now, as businesses are looking for the end of social distancing. Look at job ads, look and see where people are posting and what industries are posting. We know that accommodations, food sales, retail, are going to take a little while to come back,” said McNab. “A lot of people are going back to work and a lot of people are going to be looking for work. You have to figure out a strategy to set yourself apart. It’s not only getting on LinkedIn and making connections on LinkedIn. It’s finding a professional mentor. Finding someone in the industry that you want to work in and soliciting there advice.”

The ODU Alumni Association is also here to help, President Jennifer Keenan says the job market will be unrecognizable. So, the association plans to host seminars and workshops to help the grads.

“There will be a lot of hands on with the graduates. They are going to have to be patient. They are going to have to be flexible, they are going to have to be creative in how they navigate their way through this and how we help them do that,” Keenan said.

The Alumni Association started #monarchlegacymessages for alumni to send encouraging messages to grads on social media. 

Check it out and send them some words of encouragement as well.

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