Census: New elementary teachers land jobs

Debra Erdley
| Sunday, July 21, 2013, 11:06 p.m.

Young Americans with newly minted elementary education degrees ranked with nursing graduates as having the lowest unemployment rates as the country pulled out of the recession, a recent study of census data found.

Unemployment rates of 4.8 percent among recent nursing graduates, 5 percent for those in elementary education and 14.7 percent among those in information science are detailed in a study of 2010 and 2011 numbers by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. It focused on new holders of bachelor's degrees.

“We're seeing a lot of older teachers retiring and younger teachers coming in,” said Brooks Roorback, 23, of Robinson, a 2012 Duquesne University graduate who spent the past year as a full-time substitute teacher. He was just hired as a sixth-grade teacher in the Blackhawk School District.

Many graduates followed the market for teachers to schools in Maryland, North Carolina and Florida. Others were quick to jump to careers in sales or other fields to pay back student loans, Roorback said.

Carnegie Mellon University economist Robert Strauss questioned the findings, especially with regard to elementary education. He said they run counter to years of studies that show a consistent oversupply of new elementary education graduates and might have been influenced by stimulus money working its way through the economy two and three years ago.

Georgetown researcher Stephen Rose said the combination of jobs opening as baby boomers retire and an eagerness to find some kind of work quickly might account for the relatively low unemployment among recent elementary education graduates.

“This is a snapshot of a small period of time,” he cautioned, conceding that the census samples in some fields were small and reflect that people were working, but not necessarily in their field.

Although increasing college costs and soaring student debt have raised questions about the value of a college education, Rose said the data support the value of education in the workplace.

Researchers found unemployment for recent college graduates during 2010-11 at 7.9 percent, compared with 9 percent to 10 percent for those without a college degree.

The unemployment rate of 14.7 percent among recent graduates in information science “was a little more surprising,” Rose said.

But these graduates would be new hires, “and it is still a weak market for new hires,” he said.

The study found a much lower unemployment rate among computer science graduates — 8.7 percent — suggesting that the market is stronger for those who write programs and create applications, he said.

Rose said numbers show that employment outlooks improve with experience and graduate study.

Betsy Snook, CEO of the Pennsylvania Nurses Association, said a 4.8 percent unemployment rate among new nursing graduates is on the high side in a profession in which demand has been very high. But it reflects what she has seen.

“It used to be that you were snatched up before you left school. It's a little harder now,” Snook said.

She predicts unemployment rates for those with new nursing degrees will decline quickly as the Affordable Care Act takes full effect in the next year and demand increases for nurses in special settings, such as urgent care centers.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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