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Utah Job Market Still Seeks College Grads

May 6, 2009 – Employers will hire 22 percent fewer college graduates nationwide this year, according to an annual survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). However, employers recruiting at the University of Utah this spring indicate they are still hiring. Tight budget restrictions mean fewer job openings than last year, but new job postings continue to come into the U’s Career Services Office.

“A college degree is still the best investment you can make,” says Stan Inman, director of career services at the U. “There is a real-time indication that employers are still targeting and hiring new graduates. Overall we did see a decrease in campus recruiting activities this spring, but we do have a consistent flow of good jobs coming into our center daily.”

One reason for the consistency in Utah’s job market is that Utah is well below the national average unemployment rate. At 5.2 percent, Utah is doing much better than the national average of 8.5 percent (according to Utah’s Department of Workforce Services).

“There are a couple of main reasons for this,” says Pamela Perlich, senior research economist with the U’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “Utah is in a long-term growth region. Unlike other r parts of the country whose economy is specialized in finance or the auto industry, Utah has a diversified economy and has therefore not been hit as hard by the recession as other regions.”

Perlich adds that there are cost advantages for businesses looking to relocate to Utah. “For small start-ups Utah is affordable and the long-term business outlook is strong.” This is welcome news for the class of 2009.

Inman says that both employers and students are reporting hires and offers accepted. He does add that new graduates who are seeking to enter the workforce must be better prepared than ever to compete for jobs. The job search process may be more protracted, especially if they haven’t participated in campus recruiting activities and are starting the job search now.

“New graduates should broaden the scope of their search and be willing to look at a variety of positions and geographic locations,” he says. “The competition for positions is fierce, and in many cases new graduates are competing with seasoned job seekers for these positions.”

Inman emphasizes that graduates should focus on the long-term outlook, as many first professional positions are stepping stones for more rewarding career opportunities in the future.

The best demand for college graduates in Utah should be in engineering, education and health care and the job market should continue to be somewhat stronger than the national average. Other college graduates should see a renewed demand for their services once the economic recession is over. Demand should continue especially for accounting, finance, economics, business administration/management, information sciences/systems, management information systems and marketing.

The long-term need for college graduates in all areas should be very good due to projections which show many workers reaching retirement age and a need to replace them in the work force.

The top 10 bachelor’s degrees in demand, according to the NACE 2008 Job Outlook, are:

  • Accounting
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Business Administration/Management
  • Economics/Finance
  • Information Sciences and Systems
  • Marketing/Marketing Management
  • Computer Engineering
  • Management Information Systems
  • Business Data Processing

Employers plan to target business, engineering and computer-related degrees at the master’s level and at the doctorate level will mainly target computer engineering and electrical engineering graduates, followed by computer science, mechanical engineering and business administration/management.

Inman stresses the long-term reward of a college degree, “For each year of post-high school education, students can expect a 15 to 20 percent increase in compensation, which calculated over a lifetime is extremely significant. In fact, the ten highest paying occupations in Utah all require a degree.”

And what if that degree is not listed in the top ten? Inman says not to worry. Students gain skills in their time at university which are highly prized by employers. “While having specialized skills may make it easier to land a specific position, playing to those general skills that you picked up at school, like team work, problem solving, flexibility and computer skills, will greatly improve your chances of landing the job you want.”

The U’s Career Services Library, which contains information on a wide variety of topics, including career/major research, job search strategies and employment trends, is open to students, faculty and staff as well as the general public. U graduates may use these resources indefinitely, although after one year they are charged a nominal fee for any alumni career counseling. For more information on career trends and opportunities for college graduates, visit the University of Utah’s Career Library, 350 Student Services Building, open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., call 801-581-6186 or visit