Rising labor market good news for grads

Andrew Messamore

A steadily recovering Central Texas labor market may mean improved job opportunities for this year’s graduating class.

According to a report issued last week by the Texas Workforce Commission, more than 20,000 jobs have been created in the Austin area since this time last year.

Unemployment rates have also continued to fall from 6.8 percent last February to 6.1 percent, well below the national unemployment rate of 8.3 percent.

Except for shrinking government jobs, growth occurred in all 11 sectors of the local economy identified by the report. The largest job creation occurred in leisure and hospitality, and education and health services, which together account for almost 52 percent of the growth in the report.

In terms of employing the local population, the largest sectors of the Austin area economy are still information technology at 21 percent, utilities and transportation at 17 percent and professional business services at 15 percent.

Mark Lavergne, spokesman for the Texas Workforce Commission, said these were encouraging signs for people looking into the job market, and growth could open positions for students with college degrees.

“Just about all of the major industries have grown in the last year, and this is encouraging for any student taking that next step into the workforce,” Lavergne said. “It’s always preferable to graduate into a growing job market.”

Lavergne said further analysis was needed to determine whether the jobs being created required college degrees or if they were entry-level positions.

“Each industry includes jobs that require a variety of educational attainment, although you might see some more requirements in some industries than others,” Lavergne said.

The growing job market did not bring an easier job hunt to computer sciences senior Stephen Moore, who said he recently began an internship with a local software company.

“I found it very difficult and discouraging to try to get an internship in technology companies not only in Austin, but for any location,” Moore said. “Most companies did not want to offer an internship to anyone who had no prior work experience.”

This year, UT will graduate about 1,000 students from the Cockrell School of Engineering into Austin’s large information and professional sectors. The school has one of the highest number of graduates each year, said Jamie Brown, spokesperson for the Office of Student Financial Services.

Almost 90 percent of those students will want to find a job or attend graduate school shortly after graduation, said Michael Powell, director of the Engineering Career Assistance Center.

“A number of our students will wind up finding employment in Austin, roughly a quarter of them,” Powell said. “Certainly last year and this year the market improved for jobs.”

Due to job shortages following the onset of the 2008 recession, offers for graduating engineering students suffered to their lowest level during the 2009-2010 school year, Powell said.

“The job market has improved quite a bit since then,” Powell said. “Recruiting for engineering students went up about 20 percent last year, and we are continuing to see increases from last fall.”

Moore said companies that come to Austin usually have very large pools of possible employees, and have the option of hiring candidates aside from students.

“The best way to open up jobs for technology students is for companies to see internships as learning experiences and for opening up networking,” Moore said. “Knowing people who can put a good word in for you goes a long way.”

Printed on Thursday, April 5, 2012 as: Improving job market brings hope for grads on the hunt