It used to be moving back home after college was a bit of an admission of defeat.
Now, thanks to a job market still on the ropes, particularly for recent graduates, it can signal perhaps the smartest move you can make.
“I find my situation pretty exciting,” said J.P McDade, an Newtown resident and 2011 graduate of Wake Forest University. “I now have a degree, a wealth of skills and the freedom to use them however I want. I have the luxury of looking toward the future with a very broad scope.”
The June jobs report, out today, offers little sign of relief, coming back with a truly surprising 18,000 new jobs added when many economists were expecting at least 125,000.
And that means college grads still appear to have it much tougher now than they would have before the 2008 economic recession.
Connecticut's current unemployment rate stands at 9.1 percent as of May, while that rate was only 4.6 percent in 2007, prior to the recession. Nationally that figure inched up to 9.2 percent.
Nicole Williams of Monroe, meanwhile, is still attending McGill University in Montreal. She sees many of her friends that have graduated living with their parents and recognizes the tension it creates.
“My general impression is that it’s a weird spot for them to be in,” Williams said. “Once you’ve graduated from college you feel like you’re a real person, but when your parents are still supporting you in their own home, you don’t feel like you’ve gotten very far.”
At least there's company. In 2010, the college graduate employment rate was 54 percent, suggesting more than a few parents were still in support mode. And a recent poll conducted by the consulting firm Twentysomething Inc. found approximately 85% of 2011 graduates nationwide will move back home immediately after college.
Though these statistics seem distressing, some college graduates are still optimistic about their future prospects. In a recent article in the New York Times, Barbara Hofer, professor of psychology at Middlebury College, attributed this to changing societal attitudes.
“The progression toward adulthood has become a longer process than it once was,” Hofer told the Times. Accordingly, there is now “a general sense that much of the twenties can be spent in continued exploration.”
As a history major and political science minor, McDade hopes to work at a law firm before eventually attending law school. For the time being, though, he has no qualms with taking some down time at home.
“As my job hunt continues,” he said. “I’ll enjoy the company of my family and friends in Newtown.”
Another 2011 college graduate from Newtown, Nathaniel Basch-Gould, shares similar sentiments. Basch-Gould attended Williams College and hopes to pursue a career in theater performance and direction. For the time being, though, he too lives at home.
“For me right now, Newtown is a stopping and gathering point more than anything else,” he said, “a time to get the objects of my life sorted out before moving to the big city.”
Basch-Gould, like an increasing number of college graduates, has an interim goal to pursue before settling into a long-term position.
“From August to October, I’ll be directing a play called Ghost in the Machine, written by my college pal, Mike Leone, and starring three Williams grads and one current Williams student,” Basch-Gould said.
“Who knows where it will take me, but I’m not dreaming small right now,” he added.
Williams added that financial concerns further the pressures on recent grads and constrain what they are able to afford to do after school.
“I go to school in Canada so my tuition isn’t nearly as high as it would be if I went to school here in the states,” she said. “But still, if I want to go to graduate school, I’m going to be completely on my own financially.”
She pointed out students from upper middle class economic backgrounds sometimes have difficulty securing significant financial aid from the universities they plan to attend. That can put additional pressure on them upon graduation, when they must begin paying collegiate loans back.
“The schools look at your profile and see that your parents are relatively well off, and you’re automatically a much lower priority for financial aid,” she said. “But just because your parents can feasibly pay for your education doesn’t mean that it won’t be a serious financial strain.”