Farmers and other merchants will arrive early on Thursdays at Market Square to peddle produce, and Jeremy Campbell will be waiting to greet them.
With the ink barely dry on the Duquesne University diploma he earned this month, Campbell is one of the fortunate members of the Class of 2012. He landed a job in his field.
“It was kind of unique for me. I was in the right place at the right time,” said Campbell, 22, of Richland, the new markets manager for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “I guess I was lucky.”
Roughly half of the 1.5 million people who earned bachelor’s degrees in 2012 applied for jobs before graduation, and of those, 26 percent — up from 24 percent last year — succeeded in finding work, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Starting salaries for some are rising. The top majors to land job offers: accounting, engineering, computer science, economics and business administration, the group reported.
Yet only one in two college graduates nationwide between 2009 and 2011 found full-time jobs within a year, and nearly half of those working landed positions that don’t require four-year degrees, a study from Rutgers University found.
Time will tell whether this year starts a rebound to the level of the three years prior, when nearly three out of four graduates found jobs, said Carl Van Horn, a public policy professor at Rutgers and director of the university’s John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, which conducted the multiyear study.
“It looks like 2012 is going to be better,” said Van Horn, a Forest Hills native and University of Pittsburgh graduate. “It’s mainly because the economy is slightly better than it was last year and the year before. But I wouldn’t say it’s significantly better. Students are facing stiff competition.”
Despite the competitive employment market, “at Pitt, we have seen an increase in on-campus recruiting (by employers) over the past two years,” said Cheryl Finlay, director of Pitt’s Office of Career Development and Placement Assistance.
A survey of Pitt’s 2011 class conducted by the office found only one in 20 graduates remained unemployed and still hunting for a job six months after graduation, she said. That figure stood at one in 10 for the 2010 class.
At neighboring Carnegie Mellon University, 12 percent of the 2011 undergraduate class reported they were still seeking employment three months after graduation, the school’s Career and Professional Development Center reported. Nearly half landed jobs, and 30 percent chose to go on to graduate school.
Few entry-level jobs
Graduates from most universities across Pittsburgh and the region look for work in Western Pennsylvania, Van Horn said.
Zachary Stayman, the recently graduated Indiana University of Pennsylvania student body president, applied for roughly 40 jobs and got one call back.
“I’m still hunting,” Stayman said from his family’s home in New Canaan, Conn.
A political science major who worked on former Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato’s failed gubernatorial campaign, Stayman hoped to land a job in the Steel City — helping fulfill Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s plea to grads to “pick Pittsburgh” — but he is willing to go anywhere.
“It’s hard finding entry-level jobs,” Stayman said. “Most want two to five years’ experience, and I don’t have two to five years’ experience.”
The local unemployment rate is 6.7 percent, according to federal figures released last week, considerably lower than the national rate of 8.4 percent. The national unemployment level so far this year for college graduates age 24 and younger averaged 7.2 percent, the lowest during this annual quarter since 2008.
Seasonal hiring speeds the pace of job creation, according to the annual Summer Job Forecast by CareerBuilder. Nearly 30 percent of the 2,000 U.S. employers surveyed reported they plan to hire workers for the summer, up from 21 percent last year and the highest level in four years. About 70 percent of employers said they would consider keeping some hires in permanent positions.
Yet few of those jobs would pay $16 or more an hour, the report stated. That is roughly the hourly wage that young college graduates were paid in 2011, according to the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. That average hourly wage of $16.81 translates into an income of about $35,000 a year for a full-time worker.
Recent graduates will not find much help among some of Pittsburgh’s largest employers.
Pitt, while graduating 6,000 students this month, will slash its workforce in response to state budget cuts for higher education.
“We don’t expect to be in a robust hiring mode for the foreseeable future,” university spokesman John Fedele said.
Supermarket chain Giant Eagle does not specifically target graduates — just talented candidates, spokesman Dick Roberts said.
West Penn Allegheny Health System reports about 500 open positions. The hospital system likely will fill 50 to 75 nursing positions with new graduates this year, said Kyle Cato, director of talent acquisition. Since June, it has filled about 3,000 positions. It received 93,000 applications.
Mary Ours is keeping her server job at Joe Mama’s, an Italian restaurant in Oakland, where she has worked for two years, while she searches for a position to support the broadcast journalism degree she received this month from Point Park University. She plans to pursue a career as a meteorologist.
She wants to stay in Pittsburgh but realizes she likely will have to leave to get needed experience.
“To get a job in a large television market such as Pittsburgh, I’ll probably need to relocate to a smaller market like Johnstown or Zanesville, Ohio,” said Ours, 21, a Beaver Falls native. “But I need money to move, so I’m working to save up.”