Students graduating in May face tough job prospects

By Marissa Meredyth

Despite reports of economic recovery, Pennsylvania’s unemployment statistics suggest that… Despite reports of economic recovery, Pennsylvania’s unemployment statistics suggest that tough times still loom for students who plan to graduate this May.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that last year the average unemployment rates rose in 31 states.

Pennsylvania experienced a 0.7 percent increase in unemployment from 2009 to 2010. This places the state’s average for 2010 at 8.7 percent — that’s below the national average, which was 9.6 percent. Last year’s national average rose 0.3 percent over the previous year.

These figures caused consternation among a few of the about 3,500 who will graduate from Pitt in May. The ceremony itself is a month and a half away, and many students have started the job search.

Two students graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences said they are focusing on securing short-term employment for this summer before focusing on a long-term job search. One student in the College of Business Administration said he — luckily — had already secured employment.

Communication major Kyle McGillivray felt frustrated with the lack of jobs available to college graduates.

“It’s, like, impossible to find entry-level jobs,” McGillivray said.

She plans to get an internship if she can’t find a job that actually requires a college degree.

“I don’t want to feel like I wasted almost $100,000,” she said. The New York native pays out-of-state tuition, which rose to $23,732 last year, up from $20,686 her freshman year.

She has applied for internships in New York at the Glimmerglass Opera and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

One lecturer in Pitt’s economics department, James Maloy, suggested that an economic recovery without substantial job creation cannot be considered a true recovery.

The high unemployment rate might be evidence that a recovery is not in the near future, he said.

In January 2011, Pennslyvania had 194 mass-layoff events — which involved at least 50 people losing their jobs — and more than 16,000 unemployment insurance claims, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The only states with higher claims rates were New York and California — with 24,950 and 44,274 respectively.

English writing major Kelsey Ballance said she had yet to start truly looking for a job and was more concerned with getting through the semester.

“I have a summer job lined up,” Ballance said. “But nothing after that.”

She will teach marching band kids at a summer camp, which she said she has been doing the past couple of years.

Professor Maloy said he believed many other students might continue their education for economic reasons.

“If there aren’t better opportunities out there and if [graduate school] can be done at a reasonable price,” he said, “it’s a decent option.”

Still, he warned students against going into debt for a postgraduate degree without doing thorough research on the field. He said students should make sure they will be able to find a job that makes the cost of the degree — a function of time forgone in the workforce and debt accumulated — worthwhile.

“More education is not necessarily better,” he added. “If the cost and time associated with doing an additional degree don’t pay for themselves, then it is a poor investment.”

Maloy said some degrees are worse than others, and singled out law degrees as one such investment.

“Right now people with law degrees are struggling,” he said, because they have a huge amount of debt.

Maloy reminded students who are thinking of going for a post-graduate degree that under current legislation students cannot generally eliminate their loans by declaring bankruptcy.

“Acquiring student loan debt is not something to be taken lightly,” Maloy said

Chris Marth, a senior marketing and fiance major in the College of Business Administration, said he received a job offer from an internship he completed with Enterprise, a rental car company.

“The best advice in the job search is to broaden your horizons,” Maloy said. “Apply for many different things if you can’t find your ideal job.”

Maloy said experience is key in finding a position.

“It’s generally easier to find a new job if you already have one,” he added, warning that students quickly become undesirable by employers if they sit around without a job.

“Concentrate on showing the employer what you can offer,” he concluded, “rather than on what you think the employer should be doing for you.”