Will More College Grads Find Jobs? The Answer Is a Big “Maybe”

With final exams underway at colleges across the U.S., it’s only a matter of weeks before the first of millions of young Millennials will be out of school for the summer. Will they have jobs?

The answer is a resounding, “Maybe.”

The National Association of Colleges and Employers says employers expect to hire more new grads this year than last, and the hiring picture has even improved since early last fall. The organization’s spring survey update found employers are planning to increase their grad hiring by 10.2 percent over last year. In the fall survey, the increase was 9.5 percent.

Easier to find internships

CareerBuilder reports that 54 percent of the companies it surveyed plan to hire from this year’s graduating class. That represents a 17 percent improvement over last year’s results.

Students looking for internships should also have an easier time. Another NACE survey found intern hiring plans are up 8.5 percent over last year. Not surprisingly, the best salaries will go to students in engineering and computer science programs. They’ll earn, on average, $20.79 and $19.10 respectively, says NACE.

Some companies — Google, for instance — pay far above the average, one reason they made last week’s top 20 list from Glassdoor. Based on ratings from recent interns, the lists shows starting salaries as high as $6,746 a month for a research intern at Microsoft, which ranked just behind Google.

Prospects are also better for teens who want summer jobs. The hourly job board SnagAJob says more than half of respondents to its annual summer job survey indicate that they would be hiring teens this year. The numbers are expected to be about the same as last year, which was a little less than 1.1 million jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why teens may have better summer job prospects

Even though only 10 percent of the surveyed hiring managers told SnagAJob they’d be upping their headcount, competition for the jobs is likely to be easier than at any time since the recession began at the end of 2007. Two developments account for that:

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  1. There are fewer older students hunting for work who have been competing with teens for the same jobs. Last month, there were 360,000 more 20-24 years employed than in April 2011. It’s also nearly 800,000 more than in April 2010.
  2. Fewer teens are looking for work. Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the global outplacement firm, says its analysis of BLS data “reveals that more and more teenagers are opting out of the labor force entirely and have no desire to seek employment.” “The number of 16- to 19-year-olds not wanting a job has increased steadily since 1994,” says the firm.

“However, even with more teenagers dropping out of the labor force, competition will remain fierce,” says John Challenger, CEO of the firm. “Right now, there are about 1.3 million unemployed 16- to 19-year-olds who are looking for work. There are probably an additional 1.1 to 1.2 million who have stopped looking for work, but still want a job. Not to mention, the competition from older, more experienced applicants, including retirees who are seeking low-skilled, low-pressure jobs to supplement their retirement income.”

Internships area stepping stone

Meanwhile, college students who find paid internships hard or impossible to find, are increasingly turning to unpaid work just for the experience and the opportunity to list it on a resume. Another reason for the willingness to work for free may be found in NACE’s 2012 Internship & Co-op Survey: 61 percent of employers make full-time offers to their interns and 87 percent are accepted.

As eager as otherwise unemployed students may be to work for free, the courts and the U.S. Department of Labor look askance at the practice. It’s legal, but only under very specific rules, which, as a recent  New York Times article observes, are largely unenforced. Nonetheless, the DOL does have a six-point test to determine whether an intern must be paid.

However, as a Hastings Law Journal article notes, “the current state of the law as applied to unpaid internships is extremely convoluted and unclear.”

Still, employers would be wise to monitor their unpaid internships to ensure they follow the rules as closely as possible. The Department of Labor may not come knocking, but increasingly, interns are filing suit to recover wages and overtime. In February, Harper’s Bazaar was sued by a former intern, who claims, “Unpaid interns are becoming the modern-day equivalent of entry-level employees.”

John Zappe is the editor of TLNT.com and a contributing editor of ERE.net. John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.

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