Under pressure

Oregon has the second highest unemployment rate in the country,and with 75%-80% of PSU students staying in Oregon after graduationmany of this year’s 1,800 graduating students are feeling thepressure of finding a job.

Brenda Turner, Oregon’s Employment Economist, says that everyyear more then 10,000 people earn a bachelors degree from Oregon’spublic and private colleges. Two benefits that most of them willreceive are a lower rate of unemployment and higher median earningsthan non-college graduates.

As Oregon has slowly been coming out of its recession a lot ofpeople are looking for employment. Dee Thompson, director of theCareer Center at PSU, says that five years ago it took collegegraduates an average time of two months to find a job, now it takessix months.

With an expected 400,000 residents to come into the Portlandmetropolitan area through 2000 and 2010, (according to PortlandState’s Population Research Center) there’s more competition forjobs. Because more people are coming into Oregon then leaving it,students are entering a highly competitive job market.

According to Art Ayre, Oregon’s State Labor Economist, thisinflux will increase the number of workers looking for jobs,increasing the time it takes to search for a new job.

People who have dropped out of the labor force are coming backand keeping competition in the job market pretty high. And that canmake it difficult for college graduates to find a job.

“A lot of those people (who dropped out of the laborforce) are willing to take jobs that they wouldn’t have previouslyconsidered,” said Ayre.

Andrew Hale is a PSU student who’s graduating in mechanicalengineering this year. Since winter he’s applied for jobs withthirty companies, such as Intel.

Hale hasn’t heard back from any of the companies he’s applied toyet.

Greg Ayer, another PSU student, will be graduating in communitydevelopment, with a focus on housing and economic development.

He says that there’s a lot of employment in this area but evenmore competition. He’s started looking for jobs in Salem andCorvallis, although he’d prefer to stay in Portland.

“I’ve found a lot of stratification,” he said. “The job marketis getting more and more specialized. You either have to be anexpert or an apprentice.”

Thompson says jobs are still out there, students just have toknow how to look for them. Most jobs college graduates are lookingfor aren’t in the newspaper, which, she says, is one of the leasteffective ways to find a job.

“It’s effective for people who are looking for jobs that don’trequire college degrees or for people who have a degree and severalyears of specific experience,” Thompson said.

She says that most students aren’t clear of what kind of jobthey want, especially students coming out of the liberal arts andsciences.

“They often don’t know what they want to do,” she said. “It’sthe engineering students and accounting students who know what kindof job they want.”

Nelson Warner, a senior, will be going to dental school aftergraduation. He says there are no jobs in science with just abachelor’s degree.

More than one out of every five job openings in Portland between2002 and 2012 will require at least a bachelor’s degree, andeighty-four percent of Portland’s new high paying jobs over thenext ten years will require an associate’s degree or higher.

So despite a competitive job market, this years graduatingstudents are entering a workforce prepared. And the future ofemployment in Oregon may improve. According to the OregonEmployment Department, employment in Portland is expected toincrease by more than 97,000 jobs between 2002 and 2012.

“It seems hard to believe that things are not going to getbetter,” Ayre said.