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Originally published April 16, 2012 at 8:20 PM | Page modified April 17, 2012 at 9:51 AM

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Job prospects improving for Class of 2012

The job market for graduating students is slowly strengthening, according to national employers and advisers at local colleges and universities.

Seattle Times business reporter

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A nice beginning article by Erin Flemings, ST Business Reporter. I would like to see... MORE
And does anyone in their right mind actually believe that the Unemployment rate in King... MORE
I think unemployment in our state is actually 12-15%. Perhaps even worse. MORE

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Kwaku Asiedu, a senior majoring in international studies at Seattle University, isn't too concerned about finding a job after graduation. "Overall, I don't have a bleak perspective on the market," he said. "I think things are moving in the right direction."

But another senior at the school's spring career expo last week, civil-engineering major Daniel Pichardo, is still waiting to see the improving job market result in a position at one of the engineering firms he's applied to.

"They keep saying the same thing — that they would like to have an intern but they're not sure if they can quite afford it. Which translates into they can't really afford a full-time employee," he said.

Their different attitudes reflect the outlook for graduating college seniors: This year's grads may have an easier time than last year's crop in finding a job, but the numbers still aren't at pre-recession levels.

Employers plan to hire 10.2 percent more new college graduates from the class of 2012 than they did from last year's graduating seniors, according to the spring job-outlook survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Gayatri Eassey, associate director of external relations in Seattle University's Career Services department, said job growth in the Northwest is even more encouraging.

King County's unemployment rate of 7.5 percent is the lowest among the state's large counties, and well below the national rate of 8.3 percent.

"Students that studied here, and want to stay here, are in a really good position to be job searching," Eassey said.

Dave Wallace, the senior labor economist for the state Employment Security Department, said it's taken longer than he expected for the Seattle area to bounce back from the recession, although the situation has improved.

"It's getting better, but I don't anticipate it being a walk in the park for these graduates either."

Manufacturing jobs have seen the greatest growth in Washington this year, with 14,900 added. Government jobs took the biggest hit, with a loss of 7,300 jobs in the past year.

Anne Penny, the business-outreach coordinator at Edmonds Community College, said students in the school's materials-science program are in high demand and are "snapped up quickly" by employers like Boeing.

Employers seem more eager to recruit graduates this year, she said. "We are getting more participation in events and we don't have to twist their arms so much," Penny said.

However, Kristen Davey, program-support supervisor for Seattle Central Community College's Career Services Center, said this year it's been harder to get employers on board for its Career Fair.

At Seattle Central, graduates who studied manufacturing are also in high demand, Davey said. Additionally, she said, nursing, IT and graphic-design students have been having luck with job placement.

Victor Snyder, associate director of the University of Washington Career Center, said students have been using it more this year.

"It used to be that when we were in more of a downturn that they'd shy away from us," Snyder said. "This one has gone on so long that they've really increased the use of our services."

HuskyJobs, the UW's job-posting website, is also getting busier.

Snyder said that during the recession, the site had about 300 to 400 job postings at a time.

Today, HuskyJobs has about 640 postings — not up to pre-recession levels of about 800 — but still an improvement, he said.

Eassey said she's noticed increased interest from employers as well. Her office filled the Spring Career Expo about three weeks before the event, and got permission to use hallways and lobbies to accommodate additional employers. Last year 60 employers attended; this year there were 77.

This year, networking and using social media effectively may be essential to the job-seeking grad.

Of the employers who responded to the NACE survey, 42.3 percent said they plan to attend more career fairs, versus 28.4 percent in 2011. Additionally, more employers said they plan to increase their use of social networking, and technology in general, in their recruiting strategies.

Kristin Hunt, employer-relations manager at Seattle Pacific University, said that while employers care about a student's major and skill-sets, it's important for applicants to use internships and contacts at companies to make sure they get as much visibility as possible. "I think students are really beginning to recognize that more than they have in the past," she said.

Erin Flemming: eflemming@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2718

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