College students in classroom.
College students in classroom. - 
Listen To The Story


Kai Ryssdal: The dismal state of the current American labor market is doing a job on the confidence of the next generation of workers. A survey out today shows that job security has become the top priority for college students. It outranks even pay and benefits. And the study is just the latest indicator of change in how young people think about work. Marketplace's Amy Scott explains.

AMY SCOTT: The tax and advisory firm KPMG surveyed college students around the world. More than three quarters of them said job security was their top priority in a career search.

Shaun Kelly is a vice chairman at KPMG.

SHAUN KELLY: They're seeing their colleagues and other recent graduates struggling to find jobs, and I think their interest in increased job security is really an outgrowth of the current economic reality.

It's a shift for a generation known for its confidence, even cockiness.

Edwin Koch does a much larger survey of college students at the National Association of Colleges and Employers. He says there's still plenty of that confidence left. Even though many students said they'd need a hand from mom and dad, he says well over half of those in last year's survey expected to find a job.

EDWIN KOCH: These are young men and women who have achieved throughout their relatively short lives. And they expect to continue to achieve.

And when the job market does improve, Phil Gardner expects young people to go back to their old ways. He's with the Collegiate Employment Research Institute. He says recent grads will change jobs for better pay and more excitement.

PHIL GARDNER: I think that they'll get in, they'll hunker down. And when the economy begins to generate jobs, if they don't like where they're at, they're gonna move.

But that may take a while.

Last year, Edwin Koch says less than 20 percent of college seniors had lined up a job at graduation.

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

Follow Amy Scott at @amyreports