Sean Chua expected the hunt for his first job after college to be tough. After all, he watched his brother struggle to find a position when he graduated in 2008.
However, his fears were unwarranted. The 21-year-old justice major at American University sent out only seven resumes before getting an offer earlier this month from IBM for an IT consulting job, making him a beneficiary of a turnaround in the labor market for US graduates.
“My mom’s first position was with IBM, so she is particularly proud,” Chua said.
Hiring is back in a big way on many college campuses, one of several signs a recovery in the US jobs market is gaining traction.
After four years during which many students graduated to find no job and had only their loans to show for their studies, most college campuses are teeming with companies eager to hire.
A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found hiring is expected to climb 10.2 percent this year, above a previous estimate of 9.5 percent.
Companies such as General Electric (GE), Amazon, Apple and Barclays Global are looking for new staff, even if some firms remain below the pre-recession levels of new hiring. In another sign of the recovery, some first-time job seekers are receiving multiple offers.
At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the career service office has seen up to now a 7.4 percent increase in the number of interviews of students by potential employers from last year and the number of companies seeking to recruit for full-time jobs is up 9.2 percent. Undergraduate business majors reporting full-time job offers is up about 10 percent.
Career experts at a dozen US schools said they have seen an increase of 15 percent to 30 percent in the number of companies attending campus career fairs. At the University of Florida, the fall career fair garnered 15 percent more companies in attendance than in 2010. And 150 companies asked to conduct interviews versus about 100 in recent years, said Ja’Net Glover, associate director of employer relations at the school.
The increase in demand was so significant that it was the first time in years the school had to use both the first and second floors of the school’s basketball facility for interviews.
“It’s kind of like a no-brainer,” said Kathy Sims, director of Career Services at UCLA. “The economy is better and the college recruitment market is improving.”
While the US jobless rate fell to 8.3 percent in February, unemployment among college graduates over the age of 25 stood at 4.2 percent. Historically, their jobless rate is half that of those in the US with only a high school education.
During the recession, unemployment among graduates climbed as high as 5 percent, sparking protests over rising tuition fees at some US colleges.
US unemployment data for last month, due for release on Friday, is expected to show a total of slightly more than 200,000 jobs were created in the month, keeping the overall unemployment rate at 8.3 percent.
College graduates’ earnings are also on the rebound. The NACE said the median wage for first-time job seekers after college this year is up 4.5 percent year-on-year to US$42,569.
That initial pay level can resonate over the span of a career. Several studies show that the life-time earnings for workers who enter the labor force at time of economic recession are lower than lifetime earnings of those who are hired amid an economic recovery.