Tough market rewards experience, drive 

Employee pool grows as number of jobs shrink

Marla Cochran, career center coordinator at the College of Charleston, is pulling job posting off her website almost as soon as they're posted.

"(Employers) call within a day asking to remove it because of mass quantities of alumni applying," Cochran says. "They are overwhelmed."

Fewer part-time jobs are available to students now compared to a year ago, she says, with the number of job postings falling from 1,600 to 800.

And it's not just college students struggling to find a paycheck. According to simplyhired.com, an employment website that scours openings posted throughout the web, the number of job listings for Charleston has dropped almost 50 percent from November 2007 to May 2009.

Fewer companies are hiring so more people are left in the job market looking for work, perpetuating a cycle that's put Charleston's unemployment at 8.9 percent. And it's expected to continue to rise, according to the South Carolina Employment Security Commission. Overall, employment is down 2 percent compared to a year ago, says Mary Graham, senior vice president of public policy and regional advancement for the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.

According to a study conducted by the Trident Workforce Investment Board, specific fields such as engineering, nursing, manufacturing, sales, and finance are difficult to fill, so people seeking positions in those fields have a better chance.

"Today, many employers report there is a pool of qualified people seeking work and they are not having as much difficultly filling open positions," Graham says.

And, in general, more options for employers in the applicant pool make the job market more competitive, she says. Employers are looking for people who specialize in a specific field, and hiring those with more experience.

Amilio Carter, a 19-year-old college student, has been looking for work since he moved to Charleston a month ago.

"It's really hard. The economy is down, and the world is running slow," Carter says. "(Employers) have high expectations, and you need experience even though you can't get any experience without a job in the first place."

Personal businesses are hurting the most as they struggle to stay afloat in the rough economy, Cochran says.

"The problem is that business owners who can't afford to run their business have to re-work their lives and try something else," Cochran says. "Fifty-something professionals with experience in the real world are applying for the same positions as the 20-year-old college graduates."

Cochran says that some people are intimidated by the difficult job market and don't put themselves out there enough to find work.

Cochran says that job seekers should be more active in their search and not rely on one method.

"Eighty percent of jobs aren't posted online," Cochran says. "You have to be a hound dog and sniff out potential jobs," by widening geographic limitations, getting out and going door to door, and using the resources out there for job seekers.

Graham says a number of strategies are in place to attract, grow, and retain jobs.

"The region has a five-year economic development strategy that targets growth in a number of clusters: aviation, automotive, biosciences, advanced security, and the creative industry," Graham says. "Organizations, such as the Chamber, are working to ensure the business climate locally is a place where businesses can succeed."

Although there are fewer jobs available, Cochran has noticed an increase in pay rates. But the increased pay is coming with an increased work load.

"Simple jobs are now umbrella jobs," Cochran says. "One person is hired to complete three jobs."

Teaser photo by flickr user erix!

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