Class of 2008 – Are these college graduates cursed with unfortunate career timing?
It was a year that experienced the loss of 2.6 million jobs nationwide. The unemployment rate ended the year at its worst level since the early 1990s. But for millions of young adults, it was still their turn to come out of college and enter the labor market.
The year 2008, during the depths of the economic recession, may have been the worst possible year to graduate college. It wasn't a one or two-year struggle, though. The initial setbacks for this graduating class may have caused permanent damage on their careers and earnings.
Those who graduated prior to the recession had a head start and some time to solidify their positions in the real world before it was too late. And those who graduated in 2009 and during the economic recovery were also better off than 2008 graduates.
"Once you have difficulties coming into a bad economy, there are echo effects," said Joseph Seneca, professor of economics at Rutgers University. "These effects last for a significant period of time."
According to Seneca, the class of 2008 was hampered by each following year of graduates, entering the job market and snagging employment opportunities. Whether they went back to school, or took a job they didn't want, or found no job at all, the group was falling behind on a seemingly endless pile of student loan debt, as well as other aspects of life such as buying a home.
"It all stems back to not being able to earn income, not being able to have a job as planned," Seneca said.
Matt Drucker, a 2008 graduate of Monmouth University, went back and forth for years between Los Angeles and New Jersey, tinkering with production jobs before he decided his communications degree wasn't the best approach to finding success.
"Now I work for Wakefern, which is corporate ShopRite," Drucker said. "I'm happy there, and it's a place I never thought I would end up."
Seneca said if there's one silver lining for the class of 2008, it's the fact that America is "extraordinarily resilient."
U.S. employers added nearly 3 million jobs in 2014, the biggest one-year increase this century. The nation's unemployment rate remains at its lowest point since May 2008.