April 16, 2010
Grads confront rocky job market in state
Seattle Times business reporters
J-Chun Chen, a senior at the University of Washington soon to earn a degree in economics, gets résumé-writing tips from a recruiter at Mary Gates Hall on Thursday. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)
As graduation nears, an uncertain economy has come to define the Class of 2010: Many young people in Washington state will soon get a diploma, but what about a job?
A new report on the state job market carries mixed news for soon-to-be graduates such as Melissa Kleppinger, a University of Washington senior who wants to be a social worker or teacher. If she can't find a job, she says, she'll probably take up volunteer work overseas.
"I won't be that picky if I'm offered a job," Kleppinger said.
Employers statewide added about 1,600 jobs last month, suggesting Washington is back on the road to recovery after a tumble in February.
But March's job gain wasn't enough to accommodate an increase in people looking for work, and the unemployment rate edged up a notch to 9.5 percent, the state Employment Security Department reported Tuesday.
Make the most of your career-fair experience
- Dress professionally.
- Make sure your résumé is perfect. Bring extra copies.
- Develop an "elevator speech," which is short and highlights what you offer to the employer.
- Practice mock-interview questions and prepare responses.
- Look over the list of participating employers and research the ones that interest you.
- Don't be shy. Confidently introduce yourself to recruiters with eye contact and a firm handshake.
- Collect business cards, so that you can ask follow-up questions and send a thank-you note.
Although March marked the state's second monthly gain after relentless payroll cuts from late 2008 to the end of 2009 (and again in February), the report affirmed what many job seekers already know: A full recovery in the job market is still a long way off.
Washington had 67,800 fewer nonfarm jobs last month than a year ago, representing a 2.4 percent decline. Nationally, jobs were down 1.8 percent on a year-over-year basis as unemployment stayed put at 9.7 percent in March.
In the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett market, joblessness dropped to 8.5 percent from 8.7 percent a month earlier.
Economist Dick Conway predicts a full recovery in the local job market won't occur until the end of 2012.
"It's going to be a long time before we get back to anything like the unemployment rate we had in 2007, which was 4 percent," said Conway, co-publisher of The Puget Sound Economic Forecaster, a quarterly newsletter. "The next couple of years are going to be a real struggle for a lot of people, even though the economy will pick up."
Recruiters on rise
At the University of Washington, about 100 employers sent recruiters to a spring job fair last year, down 25 percent from prerecession levels. Wednesday, UW expects to host about 120 employers, making events coordinator Emma O'Neill somewhat optimistic.
"There are many intern and part-time positions, and even a surprising number of full-time positions that employers are looking to fill," she said.
Employers plan to hire about 5 percent more college graduates this spring than last, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. That's the first predicted increase in college hiring since fall 2008.
Still, many graduates likely will be competing for jobs with older, more-experienced applicants.
Signs of improvement
Washington saw its labor force grow by nearly 6,000 people in March, possibly explaining why unemployment rose to 9.5 percent from a revised rate of 9.4 percent in February.
State economist Dave Wallace speculated that many new entrants into the labor force had become discouraged, stopped looking for work and now are job-hunting again amid signs that the worst of the recession is over.
The unemployment rate counts only those who are out of a job and actively seeking work, meaning that when people re-enter the labor force faster than employers create jobs, the rate goes up.
Upcoming job fairs
- Seattle University Career Expo:
11 a.m.-3 p.m. April 20, in the Campion Residence Hall (open to the SU community)
- The Greater Seattle Career Fair:
11 a.m.-3 p.m. April 28, at the Qwest Field and Events Center (open to the public)
- Seattle Career Fair:
10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. May 6, at Seattle Center (open to the public)
- Maritime Career Day:
8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. May 6, at the Maritime Event Center, Pier 66 (open to the public)
Washington's professional and business-services sector posted the largest monthly gain, with 1,500 additional jobs, followed by retail trade and leisure and hospitality, each up 500. The federal government staffed up for the census and gained 600 jobs in Washington, while state government added 200 jobs in education services.
Those gains were partly offset by job losses in construction, local governments, financial activities and private-sector education and health services.
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar, career-services director at Seattle University, tells students not to get discouraged by negative job-market data.
"About 80 percent of jobs are never posted, which is part of the reason that job opportunities seem so limited," Pascoe Aguilar said. "Referrals and connections get jobs, and it's something students can always be working on."
Diane Martin, associate director of UW's Career Center, urges students to take advantage of social-networking Web sites to connect with potential employers, and she also encourages them to consider internships or part-time jobs.
Martin said she sees more students interested in graduate school and service-oriented programs, such as Teach for America, which has received 46,000 applications this year, up from 35,000 last year.
"When the opportunity for a job the graduate really wants arises, they need to show that they know how to work," she said.
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