April 29, 2014

Job market slowly improving for recent college grads, survey shows

The sun may be starting to peek through the low-hanging clouds hovering over this year’s college graduates.

The sun may be starting to peek through the low-hanging clouds hovering over this year’s college graduates.

Both local and national sources see continued slow improvement in the job market for this year’s newly minted holders of bachelor’s degrees.

Nationally, a spring survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers showed that employers planned to hire about 9 percent more new college graduates this year than last.

“I’d describe it as a modest increase,” said Andrea Koncz, the group’s employment information manager.

It’s a modest gain but is better than the 2.1 percent hiring increase in last year’s spring survey.

The U.S. Labor Department last week said the unemployment rate for those ages 20-29 who earned a four-year or advanced degree was 10.9 percent. That was down from 13.3 percent in 2012 and was the lowest since 2007. The drop reflects the steady recovery in overall U.S. economic growth and hiring.

But unemployment for recent grads was still higher than the 9.6 percent rate for all Americans ages 20-29 in October, when the government collected the numbers.

Locally, it’s always a bit difficult to tell precisely how many college grads find work, say college career officers. Some graduates leave the area, and many don’t stay in contact.

“I get a feel by how many alums come back to see me for help with their resumes and interviewing, and I haven’t seen many this year,” said Sherry Lamm, director of Career Services and Co-op Education at Newman University.

After surveying last year’s Newman graduates and scouring other sources, the best guess is that about 75 percent of the university’s 2013 graduating seniors found full-time jobs, mostly within their majors. More than half of the rest went to graduate school, she said.

For some majors, the recession didn’t deliver much of a punch. And that’s true again this year, Lamm said.

Students in accounting, computer science and the health professions are finding a solid demand for their skills, while those in the liberal arts and sciences find a mushier market, she said.

“With students in accounting and health professions, most have jobs by the time they graduate,” Lamm said. “The ones that I see tend to be in the liberal arts, where they have to figure out where to find their jobs.”

The improving economy means that even business majors, who also suffered in the downturn, are more likely to land jobs, she said.

Many of the seniors studying last week at Wichita State University’s Rhatigan Student Center have a plan, at least for the near future.

Jonathan Henderson of Wichita is a finance major who will spend next year working for the Navigators campus Christian ministry but may try a career in business later.

He felt that the job market was improving, particularly for those who picked the right majors and developed relationships with employers.

“It’s not that bad,” he said. “If you network, you can find a job.”

Samantha Reed of Wichita said she is getting a bachelor’s degree in psychology because the subject is so compelling, but she knows it won’t lead to a job. She’s in the process of applying to programs with the intention of staying in school for a master’s degree. She likes the idea of getting a master’s degree in the family therapy program at Friends University.

The job market for her and her fellow students, she said, still seems “kind of small and narrow.”

“Unless you have a clear direction and the financial backing to obtain it, it’s hard to get a job,” she said.

Abigail Eslinger of Maize, an entrepreneurship major with an emphasis on real estate, can’t wait to get out on her own and try her plan for building her business.

She wants to start by buying a duplex, living in half of it and renting the other half. That will provide the springboard to owning and operating real estate, she said.

Immediately after graduation, she said, she will intern with College Works Painting, an exterior painting franchise. She’s responsible for developing and carrying out the painting jobs, she said, while the company provides her with education, mentoring and a line of credit.

Contributing: Associated Press

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