Amie Jean graduates from McCombs School of Business on Saturday. (Amie Jean)

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When Amie Jean won her election as student body vice president at the University of Texas-Austin last year, the career-driven business school senior saw it as her chance to enjoy campus life for her last few months as a student.


Then campus life went away, shut down by the pandemic. But even more alarming was what disappeared with it: The long list of career prospects she had been lining up with years of hard work, networking and resume building.

The irony hasn't escaped Jean, 22, who graduates from the McCombs School of Business on Saturday in a virtual commencement ceremony for the University of Texas.

But she's trying to maintain a positive outlook about the uncertain future.

"If we all don't know, then at least I'm not alone," she said with a laugh.

Economists mince no words about what college graduates face: The economic crash that followed the shutdown left behind an economy at its weakest since the Great Depression, with a national unemployment rate of 14.7% and a Texas unemployment rate at 12.8%, the state's worst on record, according to U.S. labor statistics released Friday.

"The job prospects are dismal at the moment," said Michael Sadler, senior finance lecturer and economist at McCombs, adding that the few openings are not in entry-level fields. "Many of my students at UT have had job offers revoked or deferred, and those that were going to internships have seen those canceled."

Experts also predict that students graduating in a recession are also likely to make less money in the long term.

"Exactly when you graduate, and the existing economic conditions at the time, has permanent effects on earnings over the lifetime of an individual," Sadler said.

Charlotte Gorman, 26, who is getting her master's degree Saturday from UT's LBJ School of Public Affairs, hopes that working for the government will insulate her from the pay issues and job insecurity.

Charlotte Gorman is graduating from the LBJ School. (Charlotte Gorman)


She snapped up a one-year fellowship in Washington D.C. in March when she realized that job opportunities were drying up. They have told her it will happen, she said, though the start date has been delayed.

"I don't know what things will look like a year from now," she said, "but I will at least have a year of experience under my belt rather than being fresh out of school."

At placement company Express Employment Systems in Austin, owner and recruiter Mark Wagner has heard from more student job seekers since the shutdown. He's also seen fewer companies hiring talent with no job openings—a common corporate strategy to keep good people away from competitors.

It's a practice he said likely won't come back soon, maybe not until a vaccine is found.

The rebound can't come soon enough for Shelby Evans, who gets her master's degree in public affairs on Saturday.

Calls and informational interviews with prospective employers dried up in March, she said. Now, she is watching her sizeable student loan balance gathering interest while she job hunts.

"I am sure things will get back to normal, and it's just a matter of when," Evans said. "But 'when' really matters when you have a bunch of debt."

(Bob Daemmrich)

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