If I was delivering a college commencement speech this month, I would probably go easy on the "optimism for the future" stuff. A new report from the Economic Policy Institute finds job prospects for those just getting out of school continue to be pretty dismal. This for a generation that already finds itself dealing with an unemployment rate of 14.5% for those under the age of 25 (and of course that only counts those actively looking for full-time employment and not those who have resigned themselves to part-time work and moving back in with Mom and Dad).
Also this week, one of the leading hedge fund investors recommended staying away from home construction companies because those in their twenties and early thirties today are likely never to own a house. Mortgage lending has already fallen to its lowest level in 14-years, as renting (or the aforementioned living with Mom and Dad) becomes the only viable financial option for young adults without jobs and student loans on degrees in fields that have little demand.
A glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon this week as the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance released a report showing a potential workforce shortage in the state over the next 25-years--as Baby Boomers and Generation X'ers leave the workforce for retirement. That could mean more employment options, higher wages and some job security--but employers are already warning that those entering the workforce don't have the job skills (or interest in the available positions) to be hired. There are a lot of older workers on those paper machines, forklifts, welding kits and production lines--but it's a lot of MBA's and marketing degreeholders sitting around waiting for a job. That's not exactly a good match.
And to add injury to insult, the percentage of older, sicker people who signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act was higher than that of the younger, healthier folks--so that will mean higher-than-anticipated premiums for those MANDATORY policies going forward.
If the commencement speaker is older than the graduates, I would probably recommend taking a more apologetic tone in your speech. Admit that we have screwed things up royally by borrowing away their futures--and then putting policies in place that will stick them with the bill. I probably wouldn't remind them of all of the "Hope and Change" they were promised six short years ago. And I would work on my Humphrey Bogart impersonation to wrap up with "We'll always have health insurance."