Continued weakness in the entry-level job market could force many newly-minted graduates to accept lower-paying service sector positions or forsake income entirely by volunteering or accepting unpaid internships. Others may abandon the job search, opting to further their education, live at home or travel.
In the survey, about half of the human resource executives polled said the outlook for this year’s college graduates is roughly the same as last year. Twenty-eight percent of respondents were marginally more optimistic, saying that the outlook is slightly better than a year ago.
On a positive note, less than 10 percent of respondents felt that the job market for this year’s graduates would be worse than last year. Meanwhile, nearly 13 percent said the job market is “much better” than in 2009.
The survey was conducted among about 100 human resources professionals in a wide variety of industries nationwide. The two-week survey concluded the first week of April.
“Last year was an extremely tight job market for entry-level candidates,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “Even if this year is slightly better, the competition for available jobs will remain fierce. In fact, some of this year’s graduates may very well compete with some of last year’s graduates for positions. They will also be competing with other young people, who received their diplomas within the last five years, had jobs, and found themselves back in the labor pool once the recession hit. These recent job seekers could prove to be the toughest competition for this year’s graduates, as they are likely to accept entry-level wages yet bring some on-the-job experience to the table.”
In the overall job market, there are more than five job seekers for every opening, based on the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that there were about 2.7 million job openings at the end of February and about 15 million unemployed Americans. These figures do not account for the estimated 2.4 million 2009-2010 graduates, who will enter the job market this spring armed with associate’s and bachelor’s degrees.
“This is not to say that soon-to-be graduates should give up hope,” Challenger said. “There are opportunities out there, but entry-level job seekers will have to dig for them. They may have to look outside of the industry or career path they envisioned pursuing immediately out of college. They may need to look in parts of the country they might not have considered previously. They will have to look beyond the on-campus job fairs.”