Fayetteville, N.C. — With a phone in one hand and a mouse in the other, Mary Finney looks like the consummate professional in her pinstripe suit.
Finney, 24, earned her bachelor’s degree in visual arts from Fayetteville State University nearly two years ago. But she still lives with mom and dad.
Her job at the Division of Employment Security is only temporary, offering no health insurance or other benefits. Despite her search, she’s had no full-time offers of employment.
“It’s good you have a degree, but they’re also looking for experience,” Finney said. “It’s not just OK that you have a year of experience. They want you to have a good amount of experience.”
Finney fits the profile of the “millennial.” That’s what nonprofit advocacy organization Generation Opportunity calls young adults, ages 18 to 29, who can’t find permanent work.
According to a report released Friday by the organization, unemployment among young adults was 11.5 percent in December. That’s higher than the overall national rate of 7.8 percent.
The report lists the unemployment rate for young Hispanics and African-Americans even higher, at 12.2 percent and 22.1 percent, respectively.
“Traditionally, it’s going to be a bit higher for that group anyway,” said Edith Edmond, manager with the Cumberland County office of the Division of Employment Security. “They’re competing with their parents and competing with multiple generations – not just their peers.”
It’s also an age group that has a lot of people coming out of the military, including Dion Chavis. The 26-year-old who left the Army a year ago said it’s been a year of rejections from potential employers.
“Mainly, I’m looking for anything that has to do with customer service," he said."Some type of cook, anything.”
Teri Schultz, manager of Cape Fear Staffing, said young adults often have unrealistic salary expectations. Twenty-somethings want to make what 40-somethings make. She said millenials need to embrace entry level.
Christopher Leggett is willing to do just that. The 24-year-old used to work at House of Raeford, a turkey processing plant in Raeford. He said he's been looking hard with no luck.
"I mean, I’ve looked everywhere," he said. "I’m looking for fast-food. I’ll take anything right now.”
Charlene Sayers, 24, single mom of a toddler, works part time at The Wine Cafe. She's been looking for a full-time clerical job.
“I’ve been applying for months,” she said. “God knows how many places. And every time I either get an email where they’re not hiring, or you don’t get any kind of phone call or emails back.”
Mary Finney knows the feeling.
"I really just want some kind of job security,” she said, the word “believe” written on a sign above her temp-job desk.