State unemployment up 24 percent

by Latasha Webb

Graduation might not be a relief for some University students having difficulty finding a job.

In Minnesota, applications for unemployment benefits are up 24 percent since this time last year and more than 100 percent for workers in professional careers.

Total state unemployment has risen from 3.2 percent last year to 3.7 percent this year, an increase that has employment experts on alert.

“The market is weaker than it has been in years,” said Jay Mousa, research director at the Minnesota Department of Economic Security. “Job growth has dipped into negative territory for the first time since 1983.”

Unemployment has been climbing steadily since the Sept. 11 attacks. Graduating students hoping to find jobs in transportation, communications and public utilities will have an especially difficult time. These industries account for more than half of job losses
since September.

“I’ve kind of always been worried about getting a job after college,” said Annemarie Brentrup, a senior English major. “Now I’ll probably end up taking like a high school job before I go to grad school.”

Not everyone is feeling the crunch.

Although University student Tiffany Wilke said she has no idea where she’s going to work after she graduates in May, the genetic cell biology and development major is less likely to graduate without employment prospects.

“The health care sector still has a strong demand,” Mousa said. “Construction, finance and real estate are also remaining stable.”

Paul Timmins, lead services coordinator for the Career and Community Learning Center, has some advice for students who aren’t planning to go into any of these fields.

“Employ a variety of job search methods. Networking is key. Go to informational meetings and ask for advice,” he said. “This is something students should be working on well in advance of graduating – even a year before.”

This advice helped Misty Trombley, a senior majoring in outdoor recreation, who plans to graduate in May.

“I started looking in September. I got an internship and through that I got a job,” she said.

But Wilke was glad to hear the advice for her first time.

“I can use any advice because right now I don’t even know where to start looking,” Wilke said. “It really worries me. I already use my advisers, but I’m still freaked out.”

Wilke’s advisers might be just as nervous as she is, because they are trying to move students into careers where almost no one is hiring.

“We’re really challenging students to network and really put in work,” Timmins said. “It is definitely a more challenging market than one year ago.”

“We’re seeing weaker recruitment from employers,” Mousa said. “These students are also competing with people who’ve recently been laid off, and they have experience. So it’s difficult.”

The state’s recession isn’t expected to last very long.

“The economy should move out of the recession in the second half of next year,” Mousa said.

Latasha Webb welcomes comments at
[email protected]