47° Good Afternoon
47° Good Afternoon

Job market for Long Island college grads starts to improve

Lauren Liegmann, 22, of Massapequa, graduated from Farmingdale

Lauren Liegmann, 22, of Massapequa, graduated from Farmingdale State College with a degree in construction management and engineering technology in May 2016. Two months later she was hired at commercial painting contractor in Amityville in her field of study. Credit: Jennifer Wilbur

Increasing numbers of young graduates of Long Island colleges have been saying “I got the job!” — an improvement from only a few years ago, say campus career experts, employers and graduates.

Big Island employers, such as Northwell Health and New York Community Bank, say they have stepped up their hiring of new graduates in the past two years. And local colleges report higher percentages of students finding jobs within six months of graduating, higher average annual wages for them and an increase in the number of recruiters at campus job fairs.

Lauren Liegmann, 22, of Massapequa, graduated last May from Farmingdale State College. Two months later, the construction-management and engineering-technology major landed a job as an account manager with an Amityville commercial painting contractor.

“Given my major, I didn’t think I would have an issue finding a job,” Liegmann said.

Westbury-based New York Community Bank, which has 44 branches on Long Island, attended more than 130 job fairs between 2014 and 2016 and increased its hiring of new college graduates 48 percent in the period, an executive said.

“New York Community Bank believes that hiring smart, talented college graduates is a critical part of the long-term success of the bank and the communities we serve,” said John Budriss, senior vice president and chief talent acquisition officer. The bank is the largest by assets of any headquartered on Long Island.

The improvements mark a turnaround from the 2007-2009 recession and its aftermath, when Long Island’s shrinking job market diminished opportunities for workers, including millennials with college degrees, who are roughly 22 to 34 years old.

36,600 jobs lost in LI in 2009

In 2009 the Long Island economy lost 36,600 jobs from the previous year, data from the State Labor Department show. Some of the biggest losses were in higher-paying sectors more likely to employ college grads, such as local public education, financial activities and professional and business services.

The Island’s unemployment rate averaged 7.1 percent in 2009, compared with 4.6 percent for 2015 and 3.9 percent in December.

The recession and sluggish recovery hit millennial college grads hard. A study released by Hofstra University economist Gregory DeFreitas in December showed that new Long Island college graduates in 2014 fared worse than their counterparts in 2000 on wages and the quality of jobs they got.

The average 23-year-old college graduate in 2014 earned less than 80 percent of what a 23-year-old counterpart earned in 2000, stated the study by DeFreitas, who heads Hofstra’s labor-studies program, in Hempstead. The study adjusted wages for inflation. And the percentage of millennial college graduates in their 20s who were underemployed — working as cashiers, retail clerks, security guards, or in other jobs not requiring a college degree — was 42.6 percent on Long Island in 2014, up from about 33 percent in 2000.

The local labor market still faces challenges. There were 56,800 unemployed Long Islanders in December, higher than the 48,000 unemployed in 2006, the year before the last recession began. Those numbers aren’t broken out by age or education.

Nationally, the number of employed college graduates ages 20 to 24 with a Bachelor’s degree hasn’t completely rebounded from the recession. The labor participation rate of that age group, or the percentage of those employed or looking for work relative to their age group’s total population, stood at 80.6 percent in 2016, down from 83.4 percent in 2006, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show.

And while there is a high demand for graduates with degrees in technology and engineering, students with bachelor degrees in business or the humanities, for example, fare far worse, said Martin Melkonian, associate professor of economics at Hofstra. And lower-wage jobs are still growing faster than higher-wage ones.

“So there is a great deal of uncertainty among young people,” Melkonian said.

Was hard to land teaching jobs

Brian Ciampo, 25, remembers the tough years. He entered Molloy College in Rockville Centre in 2009 and graduated in 2013, with a bachelor’s degree in math and special education.

“We knew the job market was bad,” said Ciampo, who lives in Farmingdale and has since earned a master’s degree in math from Molloy.

Of 30 friends at various colleges who graduated with him, only one got a full-time teaching job on Long Island that year, he said. He applied for a math teaching position in a local school district only to learn that he was one of 600 applicants. He got a job at a public school in Ozone Park, Queens, where he started in September 2013.

One expert dates the local job market’s turnaround to 2014.

That year “was a pivotal time for teacher retirements,” said Maureen Walsh, dean of the education division at Molloy. “We saw an increase in retirements — which had been delayed from the Great Recession — which opened up the job market for teachers.”

And in the years that followed, companies stepped up their hiring.

Northwell Health, the New Hyde Park-based hospital system that is the largest private employer in New York State, said that its nursing fellowship program, which provides intensive specialty training to new college-grad hires, had 273 participants in 2016, up 20 percent from 2015. The hospital also has increased its hiring of new college grads with a health care background to train them for hospital administration jobs.

“It’s all about creating pipelines into the [Northwell] health system,” said Cheryl Davidson, Northwell’s director of workforce readiness.

The insurance company GEICO, whose regional center is in Woodbury, estimated that college graduates accounted for 59 percent of its new hires in 2016, up from 49 percent in 2015, said Kevin Baumbach, GEICO’s recruiting supervisor in Woodbury.

Some of those hires have helped to lift Long Island’s job count to an all-time high of 1.34 million in December, the highest number since 1990, when the Labor Department began using its current methodology.

Stony Brooks holds more job fairs

So many more employers were looking to fill jobs in 2016 that Stony Brook University held eight job fairs that year, quadruple the number in 2009, said Marianna Savoca, the director of the school’s career center.

And at Hofstra the number of employers attending a campus job fair jumped to 167 last spring, from 89 recruiters in spring 2009, when the Island and the nation were both still mired in the recession, said Gary Alan Miller, executive director of the university’s career center.

“We have seen a great increase in the number of opportunities being presented to students,” Miller said.

Farmingdale State College is also getting more recruiters at its two annual job fairs. It hosted about 100 employers at fairs in the fall and spring last year, compared with 40 at both fairs in 2009, said Cheryl Stratigos, the career counselor in the school’s career center.

“The marked increase in the number of employers, across various industries, who register for our job fairs can certainly be a sign of an upswing in job opportunities for our graduates,” Stratigos said.

Jean Safoschnik, who graduated last May from St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue was optimistic about the job market. And rightly so. The 22-year-old Massapequa Park resident, who majored in psychology, has been working full time since graduation as a human-resource administrator at a Bohemia technical and engineering-services company. She had worked there part time during her senior year after her mentor, and later her boss, began advising her through a St. Joseph’s alumni program.

While in school, she said, she heard upperclassmen’s stories about the difficult job market they faced, and those challenges forced her to rethink a teaching career.

“I heard the horror stories, and I didn’t know if that would be a good fit for me,” she said.

Neil Schloth, 24, who graduated from Hofstra in May 2014 with a business administration degree in information technology and business analytics, learned about his future employer at a job fair. After considering several companies’ offers, he began working the day after graduation as an information security analyst at the Melville location of a payment technology solutions company. The former Lynbrook resident, who now lives in Brooklyn, works for the same company in Jersey City as the manager of global security and fraud. “I chose security because I thought it would be a growth area,” he said. “It has definitely proved to be pretty relevant.”

An Adelphi University graduate survey found that the average salary of the Class of 2015 rose to $57,989, from $54,554 in 2009, said Thomas J. Ward Jr., executive director of school’s Center for Career and Professional Development.

And the survey found that 96 percent of 2015 graduates found jobs within six months of graduation, up from 82 percent in 2009.

Hofstra’s survey showed that the average annual salary of graduates in 2016 rose by more than $4,500 from the level in 2010. Also in 2016, 92 percent of graduates found employment within six months of graduating, up from 83 percent in 2010.

“The number and diversity of employers continues to grow,” said Stony Brook’s Savoca.

More news