Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Underemployment Surges in Alabama

Underemployment still issue in Wiregrass (Dothan Eagle, Dothan, Alabama, 12/2/08)

A college degree does not guarantee a job. Just ask Ellen Bura. After earning her bachelor of science degree in business administration in December of last year, Bura expected to face some difficulty in her hunt for administration jobs, especially given the country’s economic downturn. She just didn’t expect to be shut out completely.

“I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t think it was going to be as hard as it was,” said Bura, 23, who now works as a teller at Regions Bank in Dothan.

“It was hard to even get an interview. I would get letters back saying I’m not qualified and won’t even get an interview, or the position’s been filled.”

Her problem is not an uncommon one.

According to Sam Addy, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama, 24.2 percent of full-time working Alabamians are underemployed.

Addy is completing a study on underemployment for the state after tracking underemployment numbers for three years. He defines underemployment as the number of full-time workers whose skills and education are not utilized properly in their current jobs.

Scott Crews, 24, works as a server for Santa Fe Cattle Co. Steakhouse in Troy after graduating last December with a degree in sports and fitness management. He blames his own procrastination and the limitations of his degree for his difficulties finding a job in his field.

“I was not prepared for a job right when I got out, because I was still debating whether to go to grad school, and I didn’t have a job lined up,” Crews said. “I went to a couple of job fairs trying to find a job that I could use my degree for, but not a lot of job fairs have occupations that are related to my major. It’s kind of a new skill, since the major’s only about 10 years old.”

Crews’ story is similar to that of Matt Reynolds, though their degrees are completely unrelated.Reynolds graduated in May 2007 with a bachelor of science degree in biology. He, too, waited until after graduation to begin his job search. He quickly discovered he’d need more school before finding a biology-related job.

“I honestly wasn’t that aggressive (before graduation),” said Reynolds, 26, who now works as a teller at Redstone Federal Credit Union in Huntsville. “I wish I had started earlier. Looking for a job is not a very ego boosting experience. I worked at a restaurant for a while before I found the job I have now. I only applied for science-type jobs, but when I didn’t hear back, I started applying anywhere.”

Addy says underemployment can be caused by an array of issues.

“The major cause of underemployment is the innate productivity growth, because people have the ability to learn,” Addy said. “When people learn at their job, they tend to do things better and quicker, often to maximize their leisure time. Others are underemployed because they live in places where there is a lack of job opportunities.”

“Some are underemployed because of retirement or disability. They adjust to their disability status and become less productive,” he added. “Others are underemployed by choice, because they take part-time jobs, maybe because a spouse takes a really, really good job. Others are forced to be underemployed because of child care and other family care-type situations.”

For some, it comes down to surviving until they can catch a career-related break... read rest of article here

See also: 2007 map of Underemployment in Alabama, Center for Business and Economic Research, University of Alabama

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