The Class of 2020 will graduate into the worst American economy in a generation

This May, Rishab Kharidhi will be one of the 6,120 students receiving a diploma from the University of Colorado Boulder. He, along with thousands more graduating from the state’s colleges and universities, spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to earn a degree but will launch into the workforce under the shadow of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Kharidhi, a student from Bangalore, India, who will earn his master’s degree in cybersecurity, said his job search makes him worried for his future. There simply are too many companies saying, “We are no longer hiring.”

“It’s not going very well,” Kharidhi said. “There’s usually no reply. Only a couple companies have gotten back to me, saying they’re no longer hiring.”

The Class of 2020 is graduating into the worst job market in a generation as the novel coronavirus cripples the economy. More than 13% of the entire American workforce has become unemployed since mid-March with more than 22 million people filing for unemployment, according to federal economic data released Thursday.

In Colorado, more than 250,000 are among those who have sought support since the pandemic hit. And there is no telling how deep the job losses will go or how long it will take the country to recover.

Kharidhi applied to jobs near and far from Boulder, he said, hoping to find an opportunity in cybersecurity or software development. The applications that generated responses provided no time frame for when there might be an opening, he said. Even worse — some friends have watched job offers be rescinded.

“I’m actually really worried,” Kharidhi said. “Even if I do get a job, will it still be there?”

Kharidhi worried about being prepared for interviews but CU Boulder’s Career Services office set up practice interviews over Zoom and Webex. The office staff also provided resume reviews.

“Our students had to quickly move to online learning the week of March 16. They weren’t given much notice, and it was a big change,” said Cori Shaff, senior assistant director at the campus Career Services office. “We’re doing what we can to support employers and students.”

People who run career service centers are monitoring the job market and doing their best to help students find work. On April 9, CU Boulder’s office held its Just In Time job fair online, and about 400 students met with about 40 employers for online chats with some doing multiple interviews, Shaff said.

Job postings in fields such as hospitality, art, restaurant services, social services, recreation, retail and personal care have dropped, Shaff said. But other fields, including warehouse management, technology and project management, are still hiring.

Many employers are waiting to see how long the stay-at-home orders last before making any cancellations, Heidi Perman, the assistant vice chancellor of career and professional development at the University of Denver, said. Companies are interacting with students virtually since they can’t come to campus, Perman said.

Tony Smith, director of the Experiential Learning Center at the University of Colorado Denver, said he has seen a slight drop in listings over the last month, but jobs and internships remain available. Some fields, such as the health care industry, have suspended internships due to safety concerns, he said.

“Given the circumstances, we did anticipate a change in this type of activity as we all work through the current COVID-19 situation,” Smith said. “That being said, we forecast it will return to normal, go back up again once this crisis improves.”

Taylor Joachim, a strategic communication major at DU, said she has applied for at least 10 jobs in the Denver area, and she gets emails every other day saying openings are either canceled or postponed.

“It’s really scary,” she said. “How am I supposed to find a job come August?”

Joachim wants a job or internship near Denver in advertising. But her lease ends in August, and if she hasn’t found a job by then, she’ll have to return home to Michigan, she said.

“I’ll have to move back to Michigan, which is not what I want to do,” she said. “It would completely derail my career plans.”

As the coronavirus lingers, students are keeping their fingers crossed and hoping something will come along. Kharidhi is making a list of essential services jobs and aiming for those. Joachim is appreciative of the opportunities she has while she’s still in school.

“The only things I can find positive is at least I’m not laid off,” Joachim said. “At least I’m still in college and have that buffer of time.”

There is hope.

In February, Esteban Ortiz III, an ethnic studies major at CU Denver, worked with the learning center to find potential job opportunities. He was told it was the perfect time to be applying for jobs, because companies start looking to hire in March, Ortiz said.

Ortiz spent the past six years preparing for a job in public service with state or local government. With graduation a month away, opportunities he had in the first week of March seemed to evaporate.

Then, after weeks of being told “No,” a local nonprofit organization took a chance on him.

“I feel so relieved. When I got those no’s and the notifications of hiring freezes, it was a bit disheartening,” Ortiz said. “It’s an incredibly difficult job market for everyone, not just for recent graduates. It’s not what we planned for, but there’s hope and all our hard work will pay off.”

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