“If you want more money you have to learn new skills,” said Andrew Fonseca, 29, a bartender with a background in accounting, who went to college to earn $38,000. “For whatever reason (business) just seems to be really easy. My dad’s been doing pretty well. My uncle’s making good money.”
The majority of the new graduates are going to work in retail and hospitality industries. The industry, which has the highest unemployment rate in New York, is home to people for whom the best job is as a bus driver.
More than 50 percent of the jobs with the best pay — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — go to people between the ages of 25 and 44. The median net income of a bartender or chef in a hospitality industry is about $43,000 a year. So a college education gives them an edge. But this isn’t enough to get them a home, with just 26 percent of the workers in the industry renting apartments.
“Even when you’re making that amount of money you’ll never really feel comfortable in your own home,” said Kelli Stine, 34, a bartender with the Downtown Hotel. As a bartender she earns around $23 an hour, more than double the median for her industry, and she rents about half the rooms she stays.
Stine’s landlord, a man in his 40s who answered the phone, said his son-in-law was “doing really good” but that his mother still lives in their house. Kelli Stine said her father isn’t taking home enough.
“I’m not saying I’m not unhappy or anything,” Stine said. “‘It happens.’ There is no excuse. This is not the best scenario for anybody. No matter what profession you do, it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to succeed. You’ve been educated too early.”
There’s no guarantee that workers in professions like hospitality and bartending going into debt will become the new hot commodity. A 2011 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York suggests that a majority of those who started out with low pay were forced into it by what they see as weak labor forces and increased competition from the service business.
The jobs that have the highest pay are in the retail industry, including fast-food and drugstore chains; bars, restaurants, music and concert venues; restaurants and cafes; and the catering business.
And the jobs that provide the least pay are in the
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