It is becoming increasingly difficult for recent college graduates to find employment. They are one of the brackets of the population struggling the most with their job search since January 2021. The unemployment rate for recent graduates is at 4.4 percent – a number higher than the overall jobless rate, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

This is part of an ongoing trend since the 1990s, which the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have accelerated. Experts say recent college graduates are the first to experience the state of the labor market.

“Recent college graduates are very sensitive to the state of the labor market,” Harry Holzer, a public policy professor at Georgetown University and former Labor Department chief economist told The Washington Post. “There’s been some softening in hiring, and young people in general are the first to feel it.”

The media, tech, finance and consulting industries have seen massive layoffs in recent months, making it harder for recent graduates to get hired in entry-level positions. These industries are where most recent graduates want to work.

“It’s been really difficult,” Christian Torres, a 24-year-old who graduated last spring with an electrical engineering degree from Arizona State University, told the news outlet. “Even the entry-level engineering jobs want four or five years of experience. There’s no way to compete, so I’m still living at home, still looking for work.”

Over half of young adults reported living with their parents last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Research shows that The job market, student debt, and inflation are to blame.

For many recent graduates, the pandemic upended their post-college plans. Such is the case of Kyle Ciambrone, who graduated with a marketing degree from Monmouth University in 2020 and has applied to over 50 office jobs a week. 

“I always just expected that you’d go to school, get your degree and end up working some sort of office job that pays enough to live on,” he told The Post. “That’s the way it worked for my dad and my brother, who’s 10 years older than me. But that doesn’t seem possible anymore.”

Ciambrone took up a pizza delivery job after he graduated. The food industry and hospitality are examples of the industries experiencing the biggest worker shortages but aren’t the ones recent graduates want to work in – or have studied for. Instead, they report having missed out on crucial opportunities to develop their careers as they were still enrolled as students because of remote learning.

Recent college graduates are also looking for employment that allows them to work remotely or in a hybrid setting, which puts them in competition with workers around the country.

These findings come as Gen Z is reportedly prioritizing life experience over retirement as costs of living keep rising.