In economic lift, some hope for '04s

by Jenn Buck | 11/12/03 6:00am

It's easy for Dartmouth students, sheltered in their cozy little community, to feel unaffected by the world outside Hanover.

But the times, they are a-changin'. The U.S. economy, which has been in a slump for the past two years, is beginning to show signs of life.

The gross domestic product, the figure used to take the pulse of the American economy, grew at a 7.2 percent annual rate last quarter, after posting a much weaker 3.3 percent pace in the second quarter of this year.

So what does this mean for snowbound Dartmouth students?

More jobs for graduating seniors, is the optimistic -- albeit cautious -- reply.

"Employers are very wary when the economy shows gains," said Monica Wilson, assistant director of Career Services. However, there can be "a surge in the spring, close to graduation, when employers who've been cautious in the fall about hiring realize they need more employees," she said.

The stagnant economy seen in recent years has adversely affected the job market for students, Wilson observed.

"There's an increase in the number of students interested in law school due to the slower economy or looking at grad schools as a backup since job market is smaller," Wilson said.

Already, "positions that involve risk assessment and management, like underwriting, have been doing very well since 9/11, and public sector hiring continues to remain strong," Wilson said.

But with the recent growth, more companies will begin looking to expand their worker base over time.

"The finance industry has remained flat, but the consulting industry has seen a small but welcome increase in business, increasing hiring numbers overall, and advertising is starting to pick up a little," Wilson said, adding that the changes as of yet are "very conservative."

Dartmouth economics professor James Feyrer explained what some of the recent economic indicators mean.

"We now have net job growth over the last three months," Feyrer said. "But even if you have net growth, you have new people entering the job market and businesses producing more output with their existing workers."

"It takes time before they need to hire more. So jobs lag behind economic growth," he said.

Wilson had several suggestions for graduating seniors looking for jobs in the current economic climate.

"I maintain very strongly that if students do their research, network with alumni and organizations present themselves well, then they can find employment that really suits their needs and interests," Wilson said.

She suggested that finding a job takes hard work and time management, and students should block out time in their schedules.

"Preparing for a job search is very much like preparing for a paper -- you've gotta do your research, talk to people in the know," Wilson said.

Wilson also enthusiastically recommended that any students -- especially seniors -- talk to Career Services.

Students get down because they feel it's too late, Wilson said, or because they haven't been successful in their first attempts.

"In this market it's difficult, but not impossible," she said. "I would just encourage them to come into Career Services. There are people who are happy to help, you just have to ask."

When asked about his view of the economic growth that is underway, Feyrer replied optimistically. He cited polling numbers indicating that both businesses and households feel positive about new jobs being created.

"That's encouraging," Feyrer said. "That bodes well for students; it may be a lot easier for those looking for jobs in the spring."