As the last notes of “Pomp and Circumstance” fade out across the country, proud parents and nervous investors alike are feeling a twinge as recent grads move home with no firm job offers in hand.
If you’re in that bittersweet category, you’re definitely not alone. The latest numbers from consulting firm Accenture indicate that barely one out of eight members of the Class of 2013 had employment lined up at the start of April, and the unemployment rate for 18- to 24-year-olds in the workforce is still more than double that of their parents.
No wonder more than 16 million unmarried 20-somethings will be living with family this year.
Years of gloomy forecasts have young adults sensibly waiting until they secure solid jobs before they start building their own households. Most of them are not exactly looking forward to a lifetime of sponging off Mom and Dad. They’re probably a lot less thrilled about the situation than you are – and I know a lot of parents secretly happy to have the kids back.
Here’s the silver lining: It won’t last forever. While entry-level jobs remain in tight supply in once-hot areas of the economy (like Wall Street), the employment market for people in their 20s with college degrees is at its best level since 2009.
Tell your boomerang kids (or spouse) when they get frustrated that it may take time to find work, but the jobs are out there. Here’s a statistic you can take to heart: Most people who received their diplomas last year were gainfully employed within six months after graduation, and barely 1 in 10 struggled for over a year.
Here’s the Key
As many graduates’ older brothers and sisters have learned, it doesn’t pay to be finicky about the way opportunity knocks. Only 34% of the young grads Accenture talked to said they’ll take the first offer that comes along, and well over half are unwilling to move to another city, accept a lower salary, explore new fields or compromise their expectations in any way.
It’s all right to push back a bit on the offer, but be careful that expectations aren’t running a little too high. Remind picky job-seekers that “entry level” often means something like minimum wage pay – plenty of recent grads are making it work at well under $25,000 a year.
Compromise is the key. This the time for on-the-job training and even frequent job jumping. Employers don’t expect a 25-year-old’s resume to reflect job continuity, especially when the labor market is this tight. Flexibility demonstrates initiative, not disloyalty. If a better offer comes along in a few months, the kids can evaluate it on its own terms from a much stronger cash position since they’ll already have an income.
Speaking of cash, if the shadow of student loan repayment is holding your kids back, remind them that the traditional 10-year term is no longer the only game in town. Extended and income-sensitive plans ensure that nobody who signs up will have to starve to pay back their loans when they’re just starting out.
After that pep talk, your boomerang may have a bit more confidence to keep trying. Suggest canvassing friends and family for leads – once again, it’s not about the perfect job as simply something that brings in a paycheck – and encourage them to accept temporary positions. Online job boards like Craigslist also generate good results, but your grad probably knows a lot about that already.
Also important: Remember that most health plans now let dependent children stay on their parent’s insurance through age 26, so your job seekers have a few years to experiment before having to find a job with the benefits. You won’t have to pay out any more to cover them than you already are.
Housing Delayed Portends Huge Construction Boom
So, on the bright side, sooner or later most kids end up finding work and leaving the nest. As they do, we could see the biggest of all construction booms unleashed as they seek out homes of their own.
This is the Echo Boom generation we’re talking about – the 80 million children of baby boomers that will continue to mature, graduate and at least hope to enter the housing market when they find their spouse and financial feet.
One estimate I’ve seen has a shortfall of about 3.3 million housing units currently hanging over the U.S. construction sector, which not coincidentally is the difference between the numbers of 20-somethings living with relatives now versus the boom times of 2007.
When those kids look to move out and we’re no longer talking about “boomerang grads,” the homebuilders are going to have to scramble to close the gap.
Construction stocks like Lennar (NYSE:LEN), KB Home (NYSE:KBH) and Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL) remain long-term opportunities for just this reason, even if the shares themselves currently look a touch rich in the short term.
But most kids don’t jump straight from living in their parents’ basement to buying into an all-new Toll Brothers development. First and foremost, people who are just establishing their independence usually follow the first step that comes prior to owning: i.e., renting.
Thus, the minute your grad leaves the couch, I’d take a look at the apartment REITs. Equity Residential (NYSE:EQR), the biggest and arguably best capitalized, will be on the front lines to welcome those 3.3 million boomerang kids out of the nest.
On a raw multiple basis, EQR actually looks cheaper than either the homebuilders or the broad market right now with a P/E of 11.05. Relative value is attractive enough, but the overlooked middle-term growth catalyst is the young adult ready to live independently at their first opportunity.
Hilary Kramer is the editor in chief of the subscription newsletters: Game Changers, Breakout Stocks Under $10, High Octane Trader, Absolute Capital Return Portfolio and Inner Circle. Formerly, Hilary was the CIO of a $5 billion global private equity fund. She has an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and began her Wall Street career as an analyst at Morgan Stanley. Hilary is the author of The Little Book of Big Profits from Small Stocks (Wiley) and Ahead of the Curve: Nine Simple Ways to Create Wealth by Spotting Stock Trends (Free Press). To learn more about Hilary Kramer visit: http://GameChangerStocks.com.