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The Daily Tar Heel

Economy Makes Job Hunt Harder For Graduates

Marcia Harris, director of University Career Services, predicts that 7 or 8 percent of last year's seniors will still be seeking jobs six months after their graduation -- double the figures from recent years.

But she said the sluggish economy should not cause seniors to panic -- as long as they start looking for jobs now and don't aim too high.

"I strongly encourage students to be as flexible as possible in where they consider working and by not limiting themselves to a certain city or state," Harris said.

Students also should be flexible when investigating possible companies because the most well-known ones might not fare well in the recently lackluster economy, Harris said.

"I encourage them not to focus just on the big employers and brand-name employers," she said. "It may be the small employers with potential for growth that are the healthiest."

While Harris said this year's senior class is facing a more difficult job market, employers are still coming to campus with jobs in hand -- albeit less of them with less to offer.

Harris said employers who would previously set up more than 100 interviews with students are now scheduling a third of that amount.

And many employers are finding they simply can't offer the jobs they thought they could a few months ago. "Fifteen to 20 employers that booked interview dates in the summer have canceled those dates," Harris said. "We probably have 50 employers scheduled for the fall. In the past, it's been more like 75 to 80."

But economics Professor Michael Salemi said the discouraging statistics shouldn't set off any panic alarms.

"This economy is still creating jobs," he said. "While the unemployment rate is up, five or six years ago it would be considered stunningly successful."

Salemi did say, however, that some industries, such as the high-tech sector, have been hit much harder.

But Harris said there was previously such a high demand for employees in the technology industry that seniors in that field still might have five job offers to choose from -- just not the usual 12.

Cutbacks in other industries, such as consulting, advertising, public relations and investment banking, might leave seniors in those areas with much fewer options, Harris said.

Harrison Perry, a senior business major, said he has some decent job prospects lined up but said that in better economic conditions, a previous job of his could have turned into a permanent position. "Bank of America would have probably had me back, but there have been a lot of cutbacks," he said.

Perry said he'll just have to do the best with what the job market can offer. "I do believe I'll be able to get some sort of job in finance, even if it's not exactly what I was looking for," he said.

While many seniors will have to settle for a second choice, Harris did say some students could be spared from the pinch of the tightening job market. "For students in the pharmacy, education and health areas, it's been a very strong market, and it's going to likely continue."

But the widespread effect of the economic slowdown could even catch undergraduates off-guard, as some companies deem internships as expendable, Harris said. "If (companies) cut out internship programs or if they cut them in half, it's not so drastic of a move as layoffs."

Harris said undergraduates need to compensate by looking for internships earlier and by considering second jobs to compensate for taking an unpaid internship.

"Students just need to explore their options and take advantage of every opportunity they have, even if it's not their first choice."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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