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With the economy's slow recovery, will it still be easier for UC Berkeley's class of 2011 to secure a job than graduates one year ago?

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UC Berkeley seniors graduating this semester may have an easier time securing a post-graduation job than others who graduated just a year ago.

According to a May 6 report by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 244,000 jobs were added in the month of April, and the nationwide unemployment rate is 9 percent. This is only modestly down from 9.9 percent in April of 2010, but some feel sure that the job market is on its way to recovery.

"The job market is definitely better than last year, and we have clearly turned the corner," said Tom Devlin, director of the UC Berkeley Career Center. "We saw a significant increase in employer activity this semester in terms of on-campus interviewing, attendance at career fairs and the number of job listings. Employers have a higher degree of confidence in the economy, and that is demonstrated by their willingness to hire graduates for entry level positions."

Devlin added that he expects to see a 30 to 40 percent increase by the end of the year in the annual number of jobs posted on Callisto, the career center's job listings website.

Others were less optimistic in their outlooks.

While noting that there had been improvement in the economy since last year, Jesse Rothstein, an associate professor of economics and public policy, maintains there is still a long way to go.

"It's somewhat better - we're now adding jobs faster than we're adding people to the labor force," he said. "Hiring's a little bit higher than it was, but we're not doing enough of that to make up for the people who were already unemployed."

In addition, he said that while graduates have a chance at the jobs that are being created, in many cases they are competing against other candidates with far more experience.

Moreover, new college graduates may be under even more pressure to find a job, given that the nation's graduating class of 2011 will be the most indebted ever. According to The Wall Street Journal, this year's graduating seniors nationwide will carry an average student debt of $22,900.

Rothstein said that while graduating with such debt is still highly preferable to not earning a college degree, high debt loads have the potential to bias students toward looking for higher-paying jobs, rather than working in the public sector, for example.

It could still be too early to say how seniors will be affected by increased job openings. Devlin noted that many companies take on recent graduates as interns, later promoting them to full-time, permanent positions if they perform well.

"The major trend among employers is the increase in internship hiring and, in turn, some employers

extend more full-time employment offers to students who are very successful in the internship program," he said.

Seniors still looking to secure jobs may find an arduous process ahead of them.

Cary Luu, a senior and psychology major, has so far received two job offers but has not yet decided which of them, if any, she will take.

But they didn't come easily. She estimated that she applied to nearly 100 jobs since fall semester and interviewed for about 10.

"There were some nights when I made myself apply for like five jobs before I went to bed," she said. "During fall semester, since I was applying to a lot of jobs that didn't tend to take people from my background, it felt a little more frustrating. This semester has been a lot better."


Contact Valerie Woolard at [email protected]

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