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Say goodbye to the entry-level job

The economy is coming back to life, but job prospects for young people are still bleak. And that doesn't look to be changing anytime soon.

In the darkest moments of the Great Recession, many companies made business decisions that even now still ripple through the job market for people starting to climb the career ladder. Some companies outsourced low-level work. Others brought in computer systems to automate basic functions.

The result? Legions of entry-level jobs have been destroyed, The Wall Street Journal reports. It's now even harder for young adults to find those entry-level jobs that serve as a launching pad for a career.

Here's another obstacle for millennials on the job hunt: Jobs have been so scarce that older, more experienced professionals now apply for entry-level positions as well.

The unemployment rate for the 20-24 age group was at 11.3 percent in July, a historic high, The Journal reports. So while parents may gripe that their college graduate is back at home, bonding with the Xbox and raiding the refrigerator, it turns out the odds are stacked against these youngsters in surprising new ways.

Companies have also been cutting back on budgets for training programs that might otherwise groom an entry-level worker. Now, bosses are looking for an entirely new level of sophistication from the college graduate. They want to see collaboration and problem-solving, not how well you can rock a spreadsheet. These are skills that many colleges are still not teaching adequately.

"What we need is people who can immediately get in front of clients," a director for Deloitte Consulting told The Journal. "They're not going to sit in a back office anymore."

There seems to be a new absurdity with entry-level jobs these days -- they are not entry level. Business Insider's Alison Griswold searched online job boards for "entry-level" positions earlier this year, and found that most required years of prior job experience.

The typical job ad went something like this: "Account Executive -- entry level at Indeed: 2-5 years sales experience required."

Jobs return, but long-term unemployed still left behind 03:23

"There are so many jobs out there now that say 'entry-level' in their job title, but then they want at least one year's experience, if not three to five," Amanda Augustine, career expert at online job-matching service TheLadders, told Griswold. "They're just jumping the gun and saying we want young blood, but you need some skills in order to get there."

The new entry-level job, experts say, is the internship. "A junior prospect should be eager, very smart, have a few internships under their belt, and approach me with specific questions about the industry and the practice," the founder of one public relations business told PRNewser.

That means the job hunt now begins long before students graduate college. They need to fill their resumes with internships and work experience, Griswold reports.

Matthew Segal, co-founder of an advocacy group for young people, wrote on CNN this year that young people are so desperate to get experience that they're taking unpaid internships -- and racking up additional debt in the process.

This isn't news, of course, to the younger workers who are navigating the obstacle course to their first jobs. "It's amazing that people actually think the problem with crushing debt, sky-high tuition and no jobs is really that young people are selfish," wrote one woman on Twitter.

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