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Recession Reality

July 7, 2009, 10:03 PM by Angela Kennecke

Recession Reality
For years, South Dakota has been trying to plug the "Brain Drain," when young people leave the state for better opportunities elsewhere. The state's Workforce 2025 is also trying to draw South Dakota natives back home through job opportunities.

But one young couple who've returned home is finding the opportunities are scarce.  Thanks to the recession, the Jacobs are finding reality is a lot harsher than the American dream.

Twenty-six-year-old Collin Jacobs thought he'd taken all the right steps to get his dream job as an architect. Jacobs just completed his masters though an exclusive design-build program at the University of Kansas and thought it would give him the edge he needed.

"I thought that would really put me above the bar than other students," Collin Jacobs said.

And at first, it appeared to be paying off, Jacobs was offered a full-time position at Koch Hazard Architects in Sioux Falls. But then the recession hit.

"They said because of the way things are going we're going to have to step that back to an internship over the summer," Collin said.

Now Collin is grateful just to have that.

"In my class alone, there were 22 students down in Kansas and I had an internship and two other kids had jobs," Collin said.

But turning an internship into a full-time job has become even more critical for Collin because his wife, Abby, a Mass Communications major can't find a job either. And the couple is expecting their first child in December.

"You want to get a good position with good benefits, especially with a baby on the way. And a lot of times you can't find that. It is tough. I have looked outside of my mass communication major," Abby Jacobs said.

Looked but like so many other college graduates in her shoes, Abby hasn't had any luck, despite the fact she worked for a PR firm for a year while Collin finished his master's.

"It's tough, it's frustrating. You graduate from college and your goal is to start your career and it's an exciting time. You're stuck in a rut. You want to work, but you can't find anything that works for you,"  Abby said.

Back in January when Collin thought he'd secured a full-time position the couple began looking for their first home. But when the situation changed, the couple decided to rent an apartment in Dell Rapids.

"We looked in Tea.  We looked in Brandon.  We looked in Harrisburg and Sioux Falls and for the size, the quality we found this place and it was a couple hundred dollars cheaper. I do have to commute a half hour," Collin said.

And the Jacobs need to save money wherever they can.

"Insurance: interns don't usually get benefits so we're going off an extension program from Abby's position down in Kansas so we're paying a lot of money for insurance. It's more than our apartment," Collin said.

The Jacobs say what's most frustrating is that they wanted to come back to South Dakota, when so many people their age don't.

"We looked at Omaha. We looked at Des Moines and thought about the East Coast or the West Coast, but those job markets were getting hit a lot harder," Collin said.

And the exact things that Sioux Falls and the state are working so hard on to attract and keep younger people were what called the Jacobs back home.

"We could have gone anywhere. It's just good to come home. There are a lot of good communities in Eastern South Dakota. A lot of stuff going on downtown Sioux Falls, UpTown, all that stuff is very exciting," Collin said.

The Jacobs couldn't have imagined they'd be stuck where they are right now, but only 20 percent of new college graduates are finding jobs.

"Of course, it all has to do with state of economy right now. We'll get out of this. This isn't a permanent position for us. It's a setback and it is tough," Abby said.

"It just seemed like things were falling into place and then the economy and the recession it kind of put a stop on everything and makes things just that much more difficult," Collin said.

A situation this young couple hopes will improve before their baby arrives.

Another thing weighing heavily on their minds is their student loan payments. But the Jacobs may be able to get some relief with the new Income Based Repayment plan that started last week. The new program caps monthly payments based on the borrower's income and family size.

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