Job opportunities for graduates steadily decline |

Job opportunities for graduates steadily decline

Steamboat Springs native Emily Krall is months away from earning her degree and has an unpaid internship lined up for summer. But like many college students, she's worried about job prospects once her internship is finished.
Matt Stensland

By the numbers

Unemployment rates:

Colorado 6.6 percent (Jan. 2009)

U.S. 8.1 percent (Feb. 2009)

U.S. job openings, hires and separations* (in thousands):

Job openings Hires Separations

January 2008 4,332 4,995 4,920

December 2008 3,224 4,508 4,958

January 2009 2,991 4,399 4,906

West** job openings, hires and separations* (in thousands):

Job openings Hires Separations

January 2008 984 1,158 1,237

December 2008 689 1,053 1,227

January 2009 670 1,011 1,150

*Quits, layoffs and discharges

** Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment

— Graduation is just two months away, and Emily Krall doesn’t know a single classmate with a job offer.

“Most of my friends have given up looking for a job and are going to travel,” Krall, a Steamboat Springs native and senior at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., said while skiing Tuesday on Mount Werner. Like college graduates nationwide, Krall is entering a job market that is – along with the economy in general – seriously contracting.

“The job openings rate fell to a new series low of 2.2 percent in January, continuing a 16-month downward trend,” stated a March 10 news release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “At 3 million in January, monthly openings were down 1.6 million, or 35 percent, since the starting point of the downward trend in September 2007.”

Job openings declined significantly in most industries, remained unchanged in a few and increased significantly only in the federal government.

Throughout the 12 months ending in January, the nation’s net change in employment was -3.5 million. There were 4.4 million hires in January, down 17 percent from October 2007. The nation’s quits rate, considered a good barometer of people’s willingness or ability to change jobs, is at its lowest point in eight years.

Like many other college-aged men and women on the ski mountain Tuesday, Krall was on spring break from school. Because of her troubles finding a job, she said she was making it a conservative vacation.

“I couldn’t afford to go to Mexico if I wanted to go to Mexico,” she said. “I definitely didn’t go to some shows this week that I would have gone to normally.”

Megan Forry, who is from Seattle and is a freshman at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., said she also was holding back on spring break expenses and staying with her friend Lauren Ventrudo, a fellow freshman at Pomona who is from Steamboat.

“With the likelihood of me getting a job this summer, it’s a lot of money,” Ventrudo said about the ski trip, “but it helps that I can stay at her house.”

Ventrudo also has been cutting back, and she said that if not for Forry’s visit, she probably would have skipped out on skiing during spring break.

“I definitely haven’t traveled as much this year,” Ventrudo added. “It doesn’t make sense to be extravagant right now.”

Kansas State University sophomore Jacob Stanton, however, said he didn’t know about any friends canceling or reducing spring break trips this year because of the recession.

Stanton said he thinks college students are somewhat insulated from the downturn, although he said a case of beer in Manhattan, Kan., has increased from $17 to $18 to $20 to $22. Stanton, a golf course management major, said he is confident the economy will turn back around by the time he graduates, but he is worried about finding a job this summer.

Others, however, don’t have the luxury of waiting out the recession.

“Job search is killing people,” said Andrew Freeman, who is in a master’s of business administration program at the University of Alabama. “A lot of people younger than me are trying to get into grad school : to buy another couple years.”

Krall said she works 25 to 30 hours a week as a bartender in Walla Walla and is putting most of the money she makes away for the summer, when she has an unpaid internship at an environmental nonprofit agency in Boulder.

“My parents are still going to have to help me out so I can live,” Krall said.

Krall said she knows people who have been forced to drop out of Whitman, where tuition is $38,000 a year, or transfer to more affordable schools. Krall said she is happy that she decided to major in environmental studies and sociology.

“Environmental issues are so important right now, and hopefully in the next couple of years, it will get a lot of attention. My friends who are philosophy majors – I don’t know what the hell they’re going to do.

“There’s not a lot of options for people who are just out of college,” Krall continued. “It sucks, because you work so hard to get into the real world. All of sudden, it’s not an option – not a possibility. It’s disheartening, for sure.”

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