U alumni feel pressure from harsh job market

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series on the state of the economy.The rise of unemployment has made it difficult for David Dierauer and others to find a job after graduation.

As unemployment rises, everyone feels the pinch, including University graduates.

The rate of jobless people in Minnesota rose to 4.9 percent at the end of 2007 and the national unemployment rate, 5 percent, is at a two-year high.

A year ago, University alumnus David Dierauer, 24, was entering his final semester. He said he thought back then he could get a good entry-level position with his master’s in human resource development after graduating.

But Dierauer said he has experienced the troubles of a Minnesota job market that lost 353 jobs over 2007, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, since his commencement last June.

“It does get frustrating,” he said. “People, friends of mine, say just stick with it. Right now in the new year I’m really trying to hit it hard.”

Dierauer said he spends time everyday searching for a job, improving his credentials and networking. After graduation he said he was looking for specific jobs he had in mind, but after a few months realized he needed to broaden the spectrum.

“You think you’ve done everything right, but nothing is guaranteed,” he said.

Total hiring across all degree levels is predicted to increase by just 2 percent this year, according to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute. They said graduates with majors in computer science, engineering, business and social science will be best off.

Their report on 2007-2008 employer recruiting trends predicted that small companies will cut back hiring the most due to a slowing economy. The report said large companies will continue to hire in high numbers because the economy does not affect them as strongly and retiring baby boomers need to be replaced.

Mark Sorenson-Wagner, chair of the Career Development Network, said rising unemployment might limit opportunities for graduates, but each job’s market varies based on what graduates are looking for and what degree they have.

Sorenson-Wagner said the University’s Career Development Center helps students find mentors, internships, research and networking opportunities. The center also helps students build their résumés, prepare for interviews and contact companies.

He said the average job search lasts three to six months. To prepare for job searching, Sorenson-Wagner said students should visit their college’s career center early and often, along with using every resource at their disposal in addition to the center.

“We’re very fortunate because we’re a well-known school who has very good students,” Sorenson-Wagner said.

Dierauer, who has been job searching for five months now, said he would advise students to make a résumé that will impress employers on first glance and to make every networking connection they can. He said he has received the majority of his interviews through networking connections.

Unemployment and recession

Along with rising unemployment rates, Minnesota has also faced a slowing economy. Earlier this month, Tom Stinson, the state’s economist, said Minnesota is in a recession.

Varadarajan Chari, a University economics professor, said there is a loose relationship between the economy and unemployment, but doesn’t agree that Minnesota is in a recession.

“I’m more optimistic than many observers,” Chari said.

He said the economy forecasts unemployment to some extent. When the economy slows, unemployment rates tend to go up, and unemployment might continue to rise even after the economy recovers.

Chari said unemployment tends to affect people between the ages of 16 and 25, and minorities, the most. He said young people with college degrees aren’t impacted as much as their counterparts who have only a high school degree or equivalent.

“College education is more important than it has ever been,” he said.

While many are looking to an economic stimulus package from President George W. Bush and the legislature to aid the economy and lower unemployment, Chari said he doesn’t think the proposed package will help.

“I think they are terrible proposals,” he said.

Chari said the actions may be politically necessary, but would have a marginal effect over this year and would make the country slightly poorer long-term.