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Pew Research study reveals high unemployment rate for young adults

By: Erin Ostrowsky, Osprey Radio News Director


The Pew Research Center released a study Feb. 9 that shows young adults, ages 18 to 24, face the greatest impact from the economy, yet remain decidedly optimistic about the future.


While more American adults ages 18 to 24 attend college now than any other time in history – a trend that rapidly started developing early in the millennium before the Great Recession – the Pew study found that only 54 percent have jobs.


Tracy Knight, a UNF alumna, said she’s surprised at this statistic.


“When individuals come from college, they’re usually really motivated and eager to work,” Knight said. “So I would assume employers would want to take advantage of that.”


Knight said she sees a variety of individuals through her job as volunteer coordinator at the Hubbard House and enjoys being around young adults who bring energy to the work.


Kyle Brown, a spring 2011 graduate, said his nutrition science degree allowed him to keep his job as a trainer at the YMCA, but he’s having trouble finding another position with the opportunity to develop his career.


“You can only call and follow through so many times,” Brown said. “It can be a bummer, but I’m going to keep trying.”


Brown said he feels like his education at UNF prepared him well, but it’s just bad timing,
and there are many other qualified applicants for the jobs he’s seeking.


According to the Office of Institutional Research & Assessment, UNF has 11,483 undergraduate students in the 18-to-24 year-old age range, and the average undergraduate age is 23.76.


The OIRA’s latest Alumni Surveys report, which is based on research of former UNF students who received degrees in the past two to five years, showed that 71 percent of UNF bachelor’s degree recipients work full time, and less than 5 percent of those surveyed are unemployed and seeking a job. This number is significantly lower than the national unemployment rate for young adults.


The national unemployment rate for young adults in 2011 was 16.3 percent, nearly double the average rate of 8.8 percent, but this number only includes individuals who are actively looking for a job and fluctuates quarterly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


This Pew study did not focus on the variable of student loans or scholarships, a factor that many young adults include when making financial and lifestyle decisions. It did, however, find that taking a job to pay the bills was reported to be the greatest effect of the economy on young adults.


Knight said she thinks the media impact the decisions young adults make, and she doesn’t like the negative focus. She also said she is not an expert on the matter to say if it’s a real issue, and she is glad the Pew study reported young adults feel positive about the future.


Dr. Stephynie Perkins, associate professor of communication, said media coverage of the economy impacts young adults but did not specify whether that impact was positive or negative.


“It has to because they’re paying attention to it – if not through news feeds and searches, then they’re hearing it from parents or friends who pass it on in conversation,” Perkins said. “I don’t think there’s a way to not be influenced.”


Perkins said the effect of media varies according to the type, whether it’s social or traditional, but there is a connection because young adults are getting the information about the economy through one source or another.


For the full study, please visit the Pew Research Center site.

Office of Institutional Research and Assessment:
UNF’s Top Five Degrees by Award Percentage, 2010-2011

Category Bachelor’s
Business/Marketing 21.07%
Health Professions and related fields 13.60%
Education 10.78%
Psychology 8.97%
Communication/Journalism 8.9%

Aid Awarded to UNF Undergraduates, 2011-2012

Need-Based (includes non-need based aid used to meet need)


Non-Need-Based (excludes non-need-based aid used to meet needs)


Total Scholarships/Grants



Student Loans (all sources, except parents)



Federal Work-Study


Parent Loans




The Office of Institutional Research & Assessment (OIRA) reported that 14,637 students comprised the total undergraduate enrollment in Fall 2011.


*Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program:
2010 UNF Bachelor Graduates Earnings :

(Quarterly Wages = 40 hrs. x 13 wks.)
Less than $7.25/hr 20%
Between $7.26 and $13.36 26%
Between $13.37 and $19.48 28%
At least $19.50 25%


OIRA Alumni Survey of 2008-2009 Bachelor Graduates Starting Annual salary

Under $25,000 22.6%
$25,001 – $35,000 33.3%
$35,001 – $45,000 19%
$45,001 – $55,000 11.9%
$55,001 – $65,000 6%
Prefer not to disclose 7.1%
*There were no reported salaries above $65,000.
Email Erin Ostrowsky at [email protected].
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