It’s spring, the time of year when thousands of college graduates are released into the world, many of who now need jobs.
In what seems to be a fortunate change for them, and for the thousands of other job-seekers in America, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national unemployment rate recently hit a five-year low, dropping to slightly to 7.5 percent.
While North Carolina’s unemployment rate remains higher than the national rate, it did decrease from March, falling to 8.9 percent in April, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
But this drop may be deceiving. While many hoped increased hiring created the decrease in unemployment, this was not entirely the case. Allen Waters, an executive recruiter at Brevard Workforce in Rockledge, Fla., which works with locals to help them find job placements, called the employment rate “flat,” with unemployment rates remaining at almost double the level of full employment.
“Indications are that certain sectors of the economy are showing signs of small gains,” said Waters. “However, while this is true, many people who have been receiving federal unemployment funds, the emergency extension of state unemployment, are now seeing this entitlement expiring. People are not counted in statistics once they no longer receive unemployment.”
Americans who are no longer actively seeking work aren’t included either, so those who gave up the search for some reason were removed from the list, decreasing the unemployment rate but not indicating greater hiring. A decrease in layoffs also contributed to fewer new claims.
In April, according to the BLS, nonfarm employment increased by 165,000, slightly less than the employment growth average of 169,000 a month over the past year. Retail, food services and the health care industry all created new jobs. But this still isn’t enough, and part of the growth in these areas is seasonally based.
“There are a number of factors influencing this situation,” said Terri Kruse, a staffing specialist at Brevard Workforce. “Some of those factors are sequestration, industry decline and seasonal positions.”
The sequestration, which took effect in March, affected numerous sectors, including flight air traffic controllers, with widespread effects that will continue to be seen in the coming months.
But some types of jobs are in high demand. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers want finance, engineering and computer and information science majors.
The outlook for college graduates
While employment rates vary for college graduates, especially by major, overall post-graduation employment rates have increased over the past few years. According to the NACE, 65.4 percent of 2012 graduates expected to enter the workforce immediately.
In 2012, an estimated 12 percent of college graduates were unemployed for several months after leaving school. While this is lower than the prerecession rate of around 9 percent, it has fallen significantly since 2009, when the rate peaked at 17.6 percent.
Accounting, engineering and computer science majors were mostly likely to receive a job offer, with around 80 percent of such degree holders possessing a college-level professional job. Only 59 percent of those with humanities degrees had such a position, meaning that just over 40 percent of such graduates work at jobs that don’t require a college degree, such as retail or food service.
Despite these statistics, many seniors remain positive. Elon senior Joshua McGee, a political science major, has an internship in a senator’s office lined up for the summer, but hopes to find a job to start in September.
“I’m optimistic about my job search and hitting the goal,” he said. “With this internship and everything, I’m going to get some really good opportunities, but also I’m going to meet some good people. I have high hopes.”
A survey of approximately 85 percent of Elon University’s 2012 class by the Student Professional Development Center found that, after three months, 61 percent of the class had a job. Another 27 percent accepted graduate school offers.
The College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Communications both had low job acceptance percentages, only around 45 percent, compared to 69 percent for the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business.
But Rhonda Kosusko, associate director at the Office of Career Services, cautioned that this data was skewed.
“Many more of the College of Arts and Sciences students attend graduate school than the other schools, which would also impact the employment numbers,” she said. “It is also important to keep in mind that the nine-month out data broken down by school is not available yet, and that the employment numbers tend to increase and become more similar by school as we look at that later data.”
Both Kosusko and Lisa Arnette, manager of the Division of Employment Services in Alamance County, N.C., advise job seekers not to become discouraged and continue looking for jobs.
“We do offer many services at the Division of Workforce Solutions,” Arnette said, citing the Alamance career resource center, reemployment services workshop and other training programs. “I tell all customers that looking for work is hard work and it takes time.”
View April 2013 unemployment rates in a larger map