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Grads met by growing economy, job market

By Mitra Taj
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
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Graduates ready to write resumˇs instead of term papers might fare better in their quest for a job than last year, as economists and employers call 2004 the best year in the past three for college graduates to step into the job market.

"This is the first year (in the past three) employers are predicting an increase in hiring," said Andrea Carr, employment information manager for the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a nonprofit university and employer membership organization. "We're not where we were five years ago, but we're getting there."

According to a recent survey conducted by NACE, employers are expecting to hire 11.2 percent more graduates than they did last year.

Though the survey is based on predictions and not hiring patterns, Carr and others said they expect the improving economy will allow employers to go ahead with the projected hires.

"The economy's getting better, employers are feeling more secure and they're hiring more folks for jobs," said Bill Ruggirello, assistant director for employer relations at UA Career Services.

He said 2004 is the first year since 2000 that UA Career Services has seen recruitment activity pick up.

It's really an excellent environment for new graduates to go into.

- Marshall Vest, director of economic and business research


Graduates who majored in business, finance, accounting and engineering are especially targeted by employers, Ruggirello said.

Those majors were found to be favored by all sectors of the economy and by all regions in the country, according to the NACE survey.

Though recent graduates with computer science backgrounds aren't being hunted by employers as they were during the dot-com boom, they're in a better position than they were three years ago.

Garrett Kowalewski, branch manager of Adecco Technical, a technical staffing company, said business has grown by 70 percent. Because Adecco gets paid when people get jobs, he said company growth reflects hiring increases.

"We're hiring more college graduates, and overall, there's just a lot more jobs out there," said Kowalewski, who has worked at Adecco for the past five years. "I've seen the best and the worst, and things are looking up. In fact, we've seen a shortage of candidates in some fields."

Other areas, like health services, have been hiring throughout the recession and its recovery.

"We're always hiring," said Jane Levine, director of employee retention and relations at Carondelet Health Services. "We're hiring for pretty much every position."

Nationally, employers in the service sector, which includes areas from health to banking, plan on employing 16.1 percent more graduates than last year, according to the NACE survey. Manufacturing employers expect to take in 12.6 percent more while the government and nonprofits project decreases in its graduate hiring, though less than in the past.

Ruggirello said government agencies have been recruiting at the UA in an attempt to build up their workforce as they anticipate losing half of their retiring staff over the next five years.

Graduates who found it hard to get a job in New York a year ago might have a better shot at it now. According to the NACE survey, employers in Northeastern states are expecting to increase their hires of college graduates by 20.9 percent.

The South follows that region in projecting a 10.5 percent increase in the number of jobs its recent graduates receive, and employers in the West, Arizona included, expect to hire 8.3 percent more graduates than last year.

Marshall Vest, director of economic and business research at the UA, estimates 90,000 new jobs will be created this year in Arizona. Though it's not clear how many of those jobs will go to graduates, Vest said the overall economic situation is better than in past years.

"It's really an excellent environment for new graduates to go into," he said. "And it's just going to get better."

Vest said he expects the economy to continue growing. "We're probably looking toward another three to four years of solid expansion - at least."

Although things are looking up, Carr warned students not to be overly optimistic.

"There's still competition out there," she said. "They need to set themselves apart from others. They need to get relevant work experience and come prepared for interviews."

Ruggirello also said graduates should make sure they do their homework when going after a job.

"You need to do your research," he said. "Research the companies, have answers about why you're applying to those companies. Competition means you have to be better on your toes."

Ruggirello said students should also get their resumˇs in top shape and refine their networking skills. And he warned students against turning down offers from employers in hopes of landing the perfect job.

"Consider growth potential," he said. "Keep in mind you might be able to work into your dream job later."

Vest said though more graduates might have an easier time getting jobs this year than last, they shouldn't expect the job market of five years ago.

"We're not going back to the late '90s and the dot-com bubble, when IT grads were being lured into six-figure jobs with hiring bonuses and new BMWs to drive," Vest said. "We aren't going back there, but companies are once again hiring."

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