Boom times but a memory for U grads looking for jobs

Nathan Halverson

Two years ago, University graduates enjoyed the boom years of employment, with attractive signing bonuses and great benefits. Today the labor market isn’t so inviting.

Currently, for every two people actively seeking employment in the Twin Cities, there is one job. In contrast, there were two jobs for every one person seeking employment in 2000.

In that two-year span, 28,000 jobs have been erased in the Twin Cities, according to Kyle Uphoff, the Twin Cities labor analyst for the Minnesota Department of Economic Security.

Students will feel this impact, said Ed Foster, the University’s economics department chairman.

“The supply is going down, the demand is going up. All together, that makes for a more dismal picture facing the students,” Foster said.

Even students who are not graduating soon are feeling the crunch.

The number of part-time jobs listed with the University’s Job Center for non-University positions is down 37 percent, from 1,365 jobs posted in 2000 to only 864 posted in 2002.

“Unemployment is beginning to be a problem, and that is probably reflected in these figures,” Job Center director Norma Peterson said.

The number of on-campus University jobs is down 25 percent from 2,020 posted in 2000 to 1,513 in 2002.

The Job Center lists part-time jobs with some applicability to academic fields at the University. Peterson said the center will not list low-skill jobs.

Foster said it is not surprising that companies are listing fewer job vacancies.

“It might be that as the economy gets in worse shape they have enough people lining up at their doors already and they don’t have to bother to drum up extra trade by coming to the University,” he said.

In the late 1990s and early in 2000 the economy was still booming and unemployment was low. As a result, it was harder for companies to fill open positions, and they spent more time and money searching for employees, according to some economists.

“But they probably don’t do it if they have enough (people) coming to their doors,” Foster said.

Unemployment is up 0.4 percent from last year but there are 32 percent fewer job openings available in the Twin Cities.

Minnesota’s 3.7 percent unemployment rate is lower than the national average of 5.7 percent.

Foster said in hard economic times it’s common for more people to enroll in colleges. He said this exacerbates the shortage, because more students are looking for part-time jobs.

However, he added, more part-time positions might be created as companies replace full-time positions with part-time employees. This saves companies money because most employers do not pay health insurance for part-time employees.

Nathan Halverson welcomes comments at [email protected]