Mark Skiffington, a senior engineering student at Marquette University, isn’t looking for work. He’s going back to school. So is Cynthia Zimmerman, a Marquette senior majoring in accounting.
“I was looking for a job in the fall, but now I have decided to get my master’s” degree, Zimmerman said. “Most of my friends have decided to go back, too.”
With three months until graduation, college seniors are facing a job market that appears to be marginally better.
The outlook, according to two national surveys, improved over the past two years. Companies said they plan to hire 13 percent more new graduates than last year. But after two years of declines in hiring entry-level workers, job seekers might be competing with `03 graduates.
“The market is still saturated with candidates from last year,” said Robin Pickering, a spokesman for Manpower Professional in Milwaukee.
There will be more entry-level accounting, finance and computer science jobs, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a Bethlehem, Pa., research company. There also will be more mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering openings this year, the company’s survey found. And while government continues to be a big source of jobs for recent graduates, it has fewer openings this year than a year earlier, the firm said.
“We still are not back to the high-demand days of the late `90s, when demand far exceeded supply of available entry-level talent,” said Brian Krueger, president of CollegeGrad.com. The Cedarburg company surveyed 500 top entry-level employers including Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Kimberly-Clark and Fidelity Investments and found results similar to the NACE survey.
Like manufacturers, some banks, engineering firms and other employers are exporting jobs to China and India. Those moves will further cut down on the number of openings, said Philip Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. His yearly survey of 450 manufacturing and professional services employers across the country found only a 9 percent improvement in entry-level openings this year.
“There are too many places to get employees besides the United States,” Gardner said.
Wisconsin students who want to stay in the Midwest might be out of luck. More than 70 percent of employers said they wouldn’t increase hiring over last year, according to the Michigan State survey.
“We haven’t seen a lot of new opportunities emerging there,” Gardner said.
Northeast employers reported a forecast similar to the Midwest’s. The Southern United States may prove more promising, with 40 percent of employers saying they will increase hiring over last year, NACE’s survey showed. The West may be the hardest place to find work, with only 16 percent of employers expecting to increase their low-level hires.
With the modestly better outlook, some students are returning to class next fall or working as interns.
“People have gotten laid off. The work still needs to get done. So they hire an intern at a fraction of the cost,” said Laura Kestner, director of Marquette’s Career Services Center.
Even some students who entered a career path that seemed to guarantee a job are finding it difficult to land work.
College career counselors are advising students to broaden job searches geographically and think creatively about how to use their skills.
“Students have to think out of the box with an economy like this,” said Jennifer Maney, director of career services at Carroll College in Waukesha.
(c) 2004, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Visit the Journal Sentinel’s World Wide Web site, at https://www.jsonline.com.