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Class of 2011 wary of job prospects

College Graduation Caps

College seniors Samantha Robell and Jordan Augustadt pick up graduation tickets at Portland State University. Robell will be training at a law firm and preparing for the LSAT after graduation. Augustadt will be traveling to New Zealand to visit family. He's looking for a job working with high school students, but hasn't found one yet.

Amirah Karim graduates this spring from Portland State University with a B.A. in communications and a minor in community development. She's landed a sales job at Nordstrom, and a marketing internship at the Portland Business Journal.

Bob Moon: The biggest hiring spree in five years. That's the word from the Labor Department this week. The economy added some 244,000 jobs. But that doesn't mean it's easy -- especially if you're young and looking for work. The under-25's have an unemployment rate about twice as high as everyone else right now. When it comes to salary and job opportunity -- or should we say lack of it --- high school grads heading directly into the workforce have it worst. But, it's also a challenging environment for new college graduates trying to land that crucial first job.

From Portland, Ore., Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reports.


Mitchell Hartman: So how's the class of 2011 looking to employers?

Edwin Koc: They will hire approximately 20 percent more college graduates than they did the year before.

Edwin Koc of the National Association of Colleges and Employers says the market's decent this year, especially considering job offers fell more than 20 percent in the Great Recession.

Koc: While it's much improved, it isn't going to be at the level of 2007, where applicants actually had multiple offers. We're still at a situation where the average applicant isn't actually getting an offer.

Darby Scism: Career Development Center, this is Darby.

I first met Darby Scism a year ago when I visited Loyola University Chicago. Her students were facing dismal job prospects. And this year?

Scism: Job postings have increased, we had slightly more employers on campus. But the students seem to be responding as if there wasn't an increase.

Scism thinks the Great Recession of the mind still isn't over for her students.

Scism: They heard the news, you know, the last couple of years, they know that their peers have had a really hard time. And I think a lot of them have just decided to do the "going home to live with my parents and to look for something over the summer," instead of stressing themselves out.

It isn't too hard to find the senior stress rising at the career center at Portland State University.

Colleen Conklin: So do you think this is misleading?

Counselor: If you actually took it from a previous job description. Other words you could use coached, trained, educated, advised...

Conklin: I'm Colleen Conklin and I'm 22 years old.

Conklin is four weeks from graduating with a bachelor's in psychology. And she needs job help.

Conklin: I started probably in about December, when I started realizing how competitive graduate schools were, and that I might want to take a year to make my resume stronger, and get real-life experience. And I've been putting job postings, putting them aside, so that I can... but I'm a little late on doing the resume and cover letter.

Hartman: And have you applied for anything yet?

Conklin: Uh, no.

Conklin has plenty of company in the "delay department."

Man: Tickets are in here, cap and gown is at the bottom floor at the book store.

Jordan Augustadt: ...But they're supposed to have information about what's going on that whole day...

I met Jordan Augustadt waiting in line to pick up commencement tickets. He's a sociology major and hopes to teach high school.

Jordan Augustadt: Job market's not looking that great, especially in education right now it's not even close to being an open job market right now. So I'm actually going to do the travel thing.

To New Zealand. There's a flip-side to the Millennial Wanderer, 20-somethings who know exactly where they're headed career-wise. Like Augustadt's friend, Samantha Robell.

Samantha Robell: I am going to go study with a lawyer at my dad's firm, take the LSATs and then I'm going to apply for law school. I actually want to be a prosecutor, and that's always in demand.

Hartman: So your job plan is based on at least as much crime.

Robell: I'm actually hoping there'll be more so I have a better chance of getting a job. It's so awful to say that.

Not everyone is setting their sights quite so high.

Amirah Karim: I've been fortunate enough to be hired on by Nordstrom as a sales associate.

Amirah Karim's first job in high school was at McDonald's. With her B.A. in communications, she'll do a marketing internship this summer along with the job at Nordstrom. Many of her fellow seniors don't have jobs at all.

Karim: As you all know, the anniversary sale begins in July, so I'll definitely be full time at Nordstrom. I've put my foot in the door and it keeps me correct financially, so I think I'm doing pretty OK.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace Money.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

College seniors Samantha Robell and Jordan Augustadt pick up graduation tickets at Portland State University. Robell will be training at a law firm and preparing for the LSAT after graduation. Augustadt will be traveling to New Zealand to visit family. He's looking for a job working with high school students, but hasn't found one yet.

Amirah Karim graduates this spring from Portland State University with a B.A. in communications and a minor in community development. She's landed a sales job at Nordstrom, and a marketing internship at the Portland Business Journal.

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