Washington — Washington - - The unemployment rate dropped last month for men and women, blacks and whites, lifting hopes that the long dry spell in the jobs market might be coming to an end. But for recent college graduates and other young adults, the labor situation didn't just remain dire - it got worse.

For 20-to-24-year-olds, the jobless rate went up four-tenths of a percentage point to a whopping 16 percent in November, even as unemployment nationally dipped to 10 percent from 10.2 percent. And unpublished data from the Labor Department show that the unemployment figure for college graduates in that age group was 10.6 percent in the third quarter - the highest since early 1983 and more than double the rate for older college-educated workers.


Kyle Daley, 22, of Walnut Creek, Calif., provides a grim case study. Last June, Daley graduated from UCLA, one of the country's best universities, with a degree in political science. His grade-point average: a solid 3.5 out of 4.

Since January, he has applied for about 600 jobs, mostly entry-level positions such as office assistant, junior analyst and marketing associate. He has reached out to small firms as well as Fortune 500 companies, in aerospace, entertainment, finance and government, from Alabama to Washington state.


The results: two interviews - one in person and another by telephone, neither of which panned out. Compounding the financial bind, Daley doesn't have enough work history to qualify for unemployment benefits. So he lives with his parents and gets around with mass-transit tickets from his mom.

Things will probably get better for Daley, and for classmates he says are having similar problems. After all, job and pay prospects for college graduates are generally stronger than for workers with less education.

But studies also suggest that graduates entering the work force in a recession see negative effects not only in the short-term but for years into the future in terms of pay and career mobility.

Entry-level salaries are usually lower in tough times, and for most workers where they start is one of the biggest factors in how much they're earning a decade later. The slower start can also influence starting a family and consumer spending on everything from cars to houses.

Those effects are likely to be even more pronounced given the severity of the latest recession.

"At this point, it's almost like I can't even start on building a career or a life if I can't get my foot in the door," Daley said.

Kathy Sims, UCLA's Career Center director, says Daley's case is unusually bleak, but she says this past year was the worst job market that she's seen in her 32-year career. Earlier this winter and spring, she says, 40 percent fewer companies came to recruit on campus compared with a year earlier.

Although the recruiting activity looks stronger heading into 2010, neither Sims nor officials at other universities see a robust recovery in hiring of new graduates.


"I think it's going to be marginally, slightly better next year," said Patricia Rose, who runs the University of Pennsylvania's Career Services.

Rose wasn't surprised by Daley's experience. Unlike other recessions, she says, this one hit particularly hard and across the board - even for graduates of programs such as nursing, where demand almost always outstrips supply.

When the economy turned down in the past, she recalls that Penn nurses, for example, had little trouble getting jobs. But this time, Rose says, experienced nurses went back to work or signed up for more hours, some because their spouses had lost jobs - leaving fewer openings for fresh graduates.

Overall, 61 percent of Penn students who graduated in May with a bachelor's degree were employed full-time within six months - down from 68 percent in 2008, Rose said. About 20 percent of the class of 2009 reported going to graduate or professional schools; many of today's college students go on to advanced study, but this recession has intensified the trend as students sought a haven.

Many other colleges and universities haven't yet collected job statistics for their graduates of 2009. And some, including UCLA, either don't track or publicly report placement data. (UCLA's Sims says she doesn't because too few students respond to surveys.)

The National Association of Colleges and Employers won't have employment statistics for 2009 graduates until next year, but it's almost certain to show a further sharp drop from 2008 levels. Six months after graduating in May or June of 2008, an average 67 percent of students had full-time jobs, according to reports from 557 four-year colleges.


And that was a decline from a placement rate of 75 percent for the class of 2007 and 77 percent the year before.

Edwin Koc, the association's research director, says he's had discussions with several dozen colleges in recent weeks, and some of them are seeing placement rates as low as 30 percent for the class of 2009.

"It's going to be a bad year," he said.

It's been a horrible one for Lizzie Williams, a May graduate of Michigan State University.

Even accounting for the recession and Michigan's troubles - it has the nation's highest unemployment rate at about 15 percent - the 22-year-old from Grand Rapids, Iowa, still figured she would have landed a job by now.

After all, she graduated with high honors, majoring in communications with a specialty in design. She worked part-time throughout college and studied in England and the Czech Republic.


Since March, Williams figures she's applied for more than 100 jobs. She's had three interviews. One of them was at a health information company in Wisconsin, which she says told her that it had 100,000 applications.

"Never in my furthest imagination did I expect it would take this long," she said on a recent afternoon while driving from Grand Rapids, where she is living with her parents, to East Lansing, Mich., her college town where she now puts in hours as an unpaid intern for the local government, to network and keep herself busy.

"It's turning into winter," she said. "It's been a struggle. I've been really down." If nothing turns up by March, Williams says, she'll look into graduate school.

By spring, the U.S. economy is expected to start creating jobs again - but just how many is a big question. While recruiter visits to campuses undoubtedly will rise next year, employers remain extremely cautious about hiring.

Ernst & Young, one large campus recruiter willing to discuss its plans, says it is looking to take on 4,200 interns and workers from the class of 2010. That's down from 4,500 the previous year, says Dan Black, who directs the firm's college hiring efforts in North and South America. Many of those jobs will be in accounting and related fields.

He wouldn't comment on salaries, but many employers in the past year offered college graduates lower pay than the previous year.


With a big labor surplus, companies also have had their pick of students, leaving many graduates to settle for less pay or lower-level positions than they might have had during better times.

"I have very few friends who are employed. Even friends who are ... they're taking temporary jobs just to pay rent," said Jenn Hyman, a 2009 UCLA graduate with a double major in economics and psychology.

Hyman was hired in September as an events manager by the Anti-Defamation League in Los Angeles, a nonprofit group. The 22-year-old Los Angeles native thinks one advantage she had is that she decided early on in college to go into events planning and then took internships to prepare for the day she left college.

Still, in this economy, Hyman considers herself very fortunate to have a good job soon after graduation. "It's something I'm very thankful for," she said. "I know I'm one of the few."