It’s no walk in the park to get a job these days. With 2.2
million jobs lost since 2001 and the Michigan unemployment rate at
more than 7 percent, many seniors searching for jobs are still
ogling the employment pages of newspapers, hoping one of the ads
will lead them to the ultimate payoff of college education: their
first full-time professional job.

But many also realize they might not have a job in their
preferred career by graduation. LSA senior Genevieve Marino
reluctantly accepted this possibility after sending out more than
500 resumes, only to get back dozens of rejection letters in return
and a few “B-rate” job offers.

“It’s the most frustrating thing ever. There are no
other words to describe it except frustration,” Marino
said.

Unfortunately, students’ frustrations probably won’t
be relieved anytime soon. According to recent studies, this
year’s graduating seniors can expect slightly better job
prospects than last year since companies are slowly hiring more
college graduates. Yet despite these increases in hiring, the
reports and experts also warn graduating seniors they will still
struggle to find jobs as they see no easy ways to get ahead in
today’s tough job market.

Two studies focused on college hiring in 2003 and 2004 predicted
increases in hiring of college graduates. One study, by National
Association of Colleges and Employers study foresees a 12.7 percent
rise in college graduate hiring from last year, while another study
by Michigan State University study showed a less optimistic
forecast in hiring for this year, predicting an increase from 3 to
8 percent for graduates with bachelor’s degrees. But both
reports also stress that the number of jobs available still cannot
accommodate the higher number of job searchers holding college
degrees.

Economics Prof. Matthew Shapiro said while the economy has
gained ground, job growth is still too sluggish to warrant any
significant change in the job market.

“Most forecasts have shown that this year’s
prospects are better, but it will still take some time for people
to be absorbed into the job market,” he said.

Shapiro said the job market will still be challenging for
seniors not only because the increase in hiring still isn’t
great enough, but also because of strong competition. “In
addition to competing with other new college graduates, they will
have to compete with the clog of workers who have been trying to
find work since the recession,” he added.

But competition is only one of the major factors contributing to
the tight job market. Michigan State researcher and college hiring
recruitment trends expert Phil Gardner said current job creation
has been geared more toward providing jobs for low-income workers,
rather than for college degree holders.

Gardner who also conducted Michigan State’s job market
study, added, “Most of the job increase we see right now, is
in positions that really would be professions college graduates
would not want to see. They are in retail and sale and
construction.”

Certain industries within the job market are also still seeing a
much slower improvement in employment than other sectors, such as
manufacturing and computer-related professions, he added. Gardner
said because they arre moving production out of the country, some
industries need fewer workers and Americans are going to have to
face that cost in jobs.

“The global-ness of it now, production can be moved almost
anywhere. If we like what Wal-Mart does, then we have to pay the
consequences of it. To get cheaper labor is to get prices down, but
it’s also to lose jobs here at home,” he said.

Gardner added that because of the global pressures on the job
market, his study predicts only bachelor’s degree graduates
with majors in business and physical or biological sciences will be
in demand seeing as those are the only industries that have
experienced substantial economic growth. All bachelor’s
graduates in other majors will suffer from a slight decrease in
employment openings, he said.

NACE’s study had somewhat similar conclusions and found
that the service industry — which includes business,
accounting and computer science majors — should experience a
22 percent growth in hiring from last year. The manufacturing
industry will increase hiring by 3 percent, while government and
non-profit jobs will decrease by 10 percent, it predicts.

The good news is in the long-run the job market will get better,
but it will take time, Gardner said.

“We are in this period where we are having this major
restructuring in the economy. … Moving the economy from one
major focus to another one, to a knowledge-based economy, meaning
we are only going to use fewer people now (in certain industries)
that will take time to reorganize,” he added.

So far predictions in hiring by the two reports have proven to
be fairly accurate.

As of January, the U.S. Department of Labor reported a decline
in the nationwide unemployment level from 6.1 percent in August
2003 to 5.6 percent. The unemployment rate for workers with
bachelor degrees or higher has been gradually decreasing from 3.2
percent in September to 2.9 percent in January with a total of
64,000 new workers with college degrees entering the labor force.
But at the same time Labor Department data also indicated 239,454
workers were laid off in January — the highest number of
total mass layoffs since December 2002. The manufacturing sector
had the highest number of layoffs at 89,551 jobs, whereas
government jobs also reported a high loss of workers at 10,876
layoffs.

Regardless of the layoffs, many of the major U.S. companies have
reported that they will continue to increase hiring of college
graduates.

Gail Dundas, corporate affairs spokeswoman of Intel, the
world’s largest computer chip producer, said college graduate
hiring has remained at a flat rate in the past few years for her
company because of the unstable economy.

As for this year though, Dundas said Intel projects an increase
in hiring for 2004, but only for computer science students with
graduate degrees. “There will be more hiring of advanced
degrees in engineering and computer science majors,” she
said.

But Dundas added, “(This year) we will be keeping the same
levels of hiring for MBAs in finance and marketing.”

Aerospace company Rockwell Collins, based in Iowa, had similar
plans in hiring.

Company spokeswoman Kelly Kennedy said Rockwell Collins has seen
a dramatic decline in college graduate hiring from 163 graduates in
2001 to 62 graduates hired in 2003. This year’s hiring will
increase, but only slightly when Rockwell Collins adds 10 new jobs,
Kennedy said.

Although the current degree of improvement in the job market has
been mixed, the positive signs of gradual increases have made some
students more optimistic about their job searching.

Art and Design senior David Porter, who will begin his job
search next month, said with the economy rebounding, he still
anticipates to be hired within a month or two.

“If I do the amount of work I should, if I do all the work
that’s necessary, being persistent, I should have job,”
he said.

Even if his job search stalls and he receives no job offers,
Porter said he can always fall back on his internship which will
probably give him a full-time position.

For other seniors, the pessimism lingers. While many seniors
will not head directly into the labor force after graduation,
instead going off to graduate school or other activities, there is
still the sting of fear when thinking about what the job market
will bring in the future.

Education senior Tracy Krzezewski said next year she will embark
on a student teaching position to complete her teaching degree.

But once that is over, she worries that she might not get a job
teaching in Michigan. “It’s pretty tough to find a
teaching job now. You sometimes have to be known to get those
jobs,” she said. She said she hopes that when she begins her
job searching, some of the older teachers will have retired so more
positions will be available for her.

Yet all of this doubt and fear surrounding the hardships of the
job market is a burden that shouldn’t be on students’
minds said John Luther, career development coordinator of the
School of Art and Design.

Students should not so easily buy into the media reports or let
individual worries break their confidence in job searching, he
added.

“If you listen to the radio or turn on the news or read
the newspaper, there is always some forecaster that will give you
some gloomy news. … Take that for what it’s worth and
know that your life is not a statistic on the radio.” Luther
added, “People can get very caught up in the ‘bad
news,’ without realizing that I don’t have to follow
that path. I can do something different.’”

Scavenging for work

Increased demand for labor may still make finding a career
difficult for students

The state unemployment rate is greater than 7 percent. As of
January, the national rate was 6.1 percent.

Some analysts predict a 12.7-percent increase in college
graduate hiring from last year.

Research also suggests that the number of open positions cannot
absorb the larger number of college graduates searching for
work.

According to one study, manufacturing hiring should increase by
3 percent, but government hiring may fall by 10 percent over the
next year.

Researchers predict short-term decreases in certain areas of
hiring will be offset by long-term gains.

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