“You’re a great fit for a new job posting!” This subject line for an automated Handshake email sent to my university inbox caught my attention. Curious, I opened the email and skimmed the job description.

The position seemed reasonably attainable at first glance, but I then looked at the education requirements: a doctorate in economics and five-plus years of experience in the field. Still, while earning a bachelor’s degree, I closed the webpage in sheer disgust for wasting my time and wondered how that job could have been “a great fit” for my profile. Unfortunately, mine is just one of many stories just like this of graduates nationwide facing the gloomy realities of today’s job market.

While federal statistics claim that employment opportunities are plentiful, a deeper analysis reveals that most new jobs are part-time positions, potentially inflating reported employment gains. Additionally, a notable trend of employment growth among foreign-born workers further complicates the career landscape for new college graduates.

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published new data for April employment, revealing that the economy added 175,000 jobs to the labor market as the unemployment rate increased slightly to 3.9 percent. While these figures may seem like a “ Goldilocks” scenario for the economy, they don’t specify the types of jobs being generated or who will benefit from these employment opportunities.

In the last year, there has been a significant shift in the job market, with a notable decrease in full-time positions and a corresponding increase in part-time roles. While last month brought a rise in full-time jobs, the trend over the year reveals a decline of 3,327,000 full-time positions, juxtaposed with a gain of 2,373,000 part-time roles.

During that period, while employment among native-born Americans remained stagnant, there was a significant increase in job opportunities for foreign-born workers. This comes as native-born Americans have seen little to no growth in employment, with 5,000 jobs lost. In contrast,  foreign-born workers have experienced substantial gains, securing 520,000 jobs, possibly because they are more willing than natives to take on multiple part-time roles.

This is a concerning trend for college students whose monthly loan payments will begin swallowing up their income come graduation. As full-time opportunities are dwindling and being replaced by part-time roles, American college students are disproportionately affected since they cannot live on part-time jobs alone. It won’t help that the average weekly hours per worker has declined from 35 to 34.3 hours since 2021 as individuals pick up part-time opportunities to make ends meet.

Some graduates may be spared this headache — those who intend to enter the medical field or government employment. The government and the government-dominated healthcare sector have emerged as the primary sources of job growth. Together, these sectors have accounted for three-fifths of all net payrolls added.

New college graduates outside these sectors must face the challenging reality that the job market offers few full-time opportunities, a problem that disproportionately affects native-born workers. This challenge is exacerbated by competition from experienced professionals laid off from full-time positions, placing recent graduates at a significant disadvantage.

In the face of such a challenging job market, new college graduates are left with only a few daunting avenues, each fraught with its own obstacles.

The first option is to compete fiercely with hundreds of other applicants for the rare full-time job openings available, knowing that even securing such a position does not guarantee long-term stability.

In place of this, graduates may find themselves cobbling together multiple part-time jobs, missing out on the benefits and security of full-time employment. However, this route often leads to a fragmented work experience and limited career advancement opportunities.

Alternatively, some may opt to further their education, seeking refuge in additional degrees or certifications — a decision that deepens their substantial debt burden from their undergraduate studies. This also comes with the additional cost of possibly further prolonging their entrance into the workforce.

The latter option seems to be the most prevalent among graduates, with demand for secondary degrees rising by  20 percent over the last two years. However, as students hope to wait out a stagnant job market, they may still compete for part-time employment alongside non-native workers. Unfortunately, they would be less able to sustain a living on part-time employment due to the significant debt accumulated during their studies.

Regardless of the paths we take, graduates of the class of 2024 will have to work smart and continuously adapt to stay competitive in today’s employment market.