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In the News: 'Job Market Swings Open'

The National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Jobs Outlook 2012 Survey indicates that employers plan to hire 10.2 percent more new graduates this spring than they did a year ago. In this story, the Argus Leader caught up with Augustana officials and students to learn more:

Job Markets Swing Open
Sluggish Outlook Gets Brighter
By Steve Young, Argus Leader

When Jake Weinstein’s sister-in-law went hunting for a teaching job a year or two ago, the recession kept her waiting far longer into the spring and summer than she ever would have imagined.

Now with his graduation from Augustana College only weeks away, Weinstein hopes he doesn’t face the same protracted uncertainty as he looks for a teaching job. And there are growing signs that he might get his wish.

"We’ve got a lot of teacher interviews going on, too, and a lot of nursing interviews. Things are hopping.”
— Sandi Vietor, director,
Augustana Career Center

A jobs survey just published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers says organizations across the country now expect to hire 10.2 percent more college graduates than a year ago — a dramatic improvement from as recently as 2009, when the same survey reported a 21.6 percent decline in hiring.

Weinstein, a 24-year-old elementary education major from Parker, sees that as one more good sign as he goes job hunting.

“I know my sister-in-law got pretty nervous,” he said Monday. “But I’m optimistic right now because it’s still kind of early. I think a lot of teachers who have been holding out on retirement because of the economy maybe are ready to go now.”

Teaching isn’t the only field offering promise. At its Business, Industry and Government Job Fair last month, the South Dakota Association of College Career Centers counted 131 organizations in attendance, compared to 113 the year before, said its president, Billie Streufert, who also is director of Career Services at the University of Sioux Falls.

The NACE survey said business majors in particular are finding job opportunities more readily this year. And Augustana College has heard from many more companies eager to talk to its graduates, especially in accounting and computer sciences, said Sandi Vietor, director of the school’s Career Center.

“Those were areas that were slower the last couple of years,” Vietor said. “But those are up. We’ve got a lot of teacher interviews going on, too, and a lot of nursing interviews. Things are hopping.”

Jenna Christians, a 22-year-old Augie nursing major from Northfield, Minn., just landed a position in the neonatal intensive care unit at Sanford Health starting this summer. She admits that she had some concerns about the job market, especially since an older sister struggled to get a teaching job four or five years ago.

“Her difficulties finding a job did worry me,” Christians said. “I wanted to work in neonatal intensive care, but I thought it might be harder for me to do that because I am a new graduate, and many of those units don’t hire new grads. I feel very fortunate.”

During the recession’s low point, graduates faced competition not only among themselves, but with much older people who were laid off and willing to take reduced salaries. But that competition is easing now. And even though the U.S. jobless rate remains at 8.3 percent, it’s only 4.2 percent for college graduates 25 and older.

Steve Ward, director of Academic and Career Planning at the University of South Dakota, said his school “had more employers than ever before” come to a job fair on his campus last fall. If they’re out looking for job opportunities now, he is convinced students are finding them.

“South Dakota is sheltered a bit from the national crisis that we saw, so I don’t think our graduates were hurt as much as the average number across the country,” Ward said. “But I have seen, in the students I’ve worked with personally, that they are finding jobs or going on to grad school at high rates. I haven’t had a lot of people coming in and saying, ‘I can’t find anything.’”

Vietor, at Augustana, agreed that the recession probably hasn’t been as challenging to graduates in South Dakota looking for jobs here or in the region. She said 97 percent of her school’s most recent graduates, in spring 2011, reported finding jobs in their fields, compared to 93 percent in 2009.

“It was not necessarily a struggle” in 2009, Vietor said. “But it probably indicates that they had a tougher time finding jobs back then. Everyone probably got somewhere as far as a job back then, but it probably wasn’t a lot of fun.”

Today, Christians can confirm, it is more fun — and more of a relief, too.

“I had been really worried about finding a job since Christmas break,” she said. “Now I’m happy ... very happy.”