With yet another graduation season now behind us, we can’t help but ask.
It’s no secret that South Jersey didn’t escape from the recession completely unscathed; according to recent figures published by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DLWD), the region’s unemployment rate of 10.9 percent remains slightly higher than the statewide average of 9.3.
However, that doesn’t mean South Jersey isn’t making a comeback. There are still ample job opportunities available here—one must simply know where to look.
According to recent findings by the DLWD, the largest job gains in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties can be found in the education and health services sectors, which have increased in job availability by nearly seven percent. That’s a sharp contrast to industries such as trade, transportation and utilities, which have dropped by 2.2 percent.
Other industries that have shed a significant number of jobs are retail trade, manufacturing, and leisure and hospitality.
Overall, South Jersey saw an increase of 10,800 non-farm employment jobs to reach a non-seasonally adjusted level of 729,900 from March 2011 to March 2012—a bright spot after three years of recessionary decline during the March-to-March period. The region’s payrolls are also reportedly up by 1.5 percent from the same month last year.
“It looks like we’re going in the right direction, and I’m cautiously optimistic that things are going to continue to improve,” says Jim Marino, assistant dean/director of the Career Center at Rutgers University in Camden. The university has seen an increase in the number of students hired for positions in fields such as social services, while the accounting and marketing industries have remained steady throughout the worst of the recession and continue to hire new graduates.
While academic programs in education are attracting an increasing number of local students, many are making the decision to remain in school to pursue higher degrees in a variety of disciplines. “When the job market takes a dip, we find that students want to return or stay in school to earn those extra credentials,” Marino adds.
A field that appears to be making a full-fledged recovery is computer sciences; Marino says many of the region’s college students are now landing positions in the field, which had been in decline since the turn of the century. Johanna Zitto, technology and entrepreneurship talent network coordinator for the Mount Laurel-based New Jersey Technology Council (NJTC), notes there are widespread hiring trends emerging for positions in technology, including information technology, mobile app development, energy, and financial technology. Other in-demand jobs revolve around network security, data storage, upgrading dated systems, and Web design. “Another trend we’re seeing is technology companies rethinking their decisions to outsource internationally; they’re looking to hire locally or domestically rather than off shore,” she adds.
One of the cornerstones of the South Jersey job market remains the region’s prominent health care sector—one of the few local industries to demonstrate continued growth through the recession. Hospitals like Lourdes Health System, Cooper University Hospital and Virtua have been hiring employees and building new facilities, acute care centers and ambulatory care centers, such as Lourdes’ recently announced ambulatory care site in Cherry Hill and Virtua’s hospital location in Voorhees. Debbie Bocchi, staffing supervisor for Protocall Staffing Company’s health care division, estimates that Virtua is on track to expand from 2,800 full- and part-time positions to close to 4,000 jobs. Protocall has offices in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Atlantic counties, as well as two offices in Philadelphia.
Doug Allen, senior vice president of human resources at Cooper University Hospital, notes that although the organization maintains only a three-percent vacancy rate, and a turnover rate of less than 10 percent, employees pursuing careers in the health care industry should first consider the positions that are actually available for new hires. “It’s a new reality for health care,” he says, noting the future of the industry has been greatly affected by the economic downturn. “The state of New Jersey requires more credentials for health care providers, insurance reimbursements are drying up, patients are out of work and unable to pay their health care costs, and technology is taking over,” he explains.
However, medical positions in fields such as pharmaceutical, rehabilitation, and physical and occupational therapy, in addition to non-clinical positions such as human resources, technology and public relations, remain among the most available for job seekers, he says. Meanwhile, positions in nursing, which underwent a shortage 10 years ago, have continued to decline in demand—a national trend that Michael E. Pepe, Ph.D., Virtua’s chief human resources officer, partially attributes to the financial inability of many aging nurses and other medical professionals to retire. “People are working longer because they can’t afford to retire,” he says. “It puts a cap on opportunities for people who are coming out of school or trying to land employment in clinical positions.”
Whether you’re a fledgling entrepreneur, recent college graduate, or job seeker, another national trend that may be hindering the ability to find gainful employment is the need for potential employees to lower their expectations regarding pay. “The reason why the job market remains so challenging is that it’s an employer’s market—and they’re looking for both cheap labor and experienced workers,” says Stephen M. Kozachyn, director of outreach for Rowan University’s Rohrer College of Business Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “They’re looking for more in terms of talent and experience than what they’re willing to pay.”
“The jobs are there—it’s just a matter of accepting lower pay than you anticipated,” agrees Roy Fazio, owner and vice president of The Protocall Group, a division of Protocall Staffing Company.
For recent graduates or job seekers struggling to land employment, there remains some techniques that are proving more effective in today’s tight job market. Tried-and-true tactics like networking remain ever important, and internships are on the top of the list of the most effective ways to land full-time employment; employers are increasingly cautious about the hiring process, and internships allow current and recent students to audition for a job before they’re hired. “Companies are looking for a good culture and job performance ‘fit’ before they commit to hire,” Zitto confirms. “Hiring is risky and expensive, and they look to minimize mistakes.”
“Don’t overlook part-time or temporary work, which can lead to permanent full-time positions and help you close a gap in your resume. That is very important,” adds Commissioner Harold J. Wirths, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. “The longer anyone stays unemployed, the harder it becomes to obtain a job. Keep active.”
For many South Jerseyans, including recent college graduates, sometimes the best option can end up being launching their own venture. “We’re seeing a trend of more and more people taking control of their own destinies by becoming entrepreneurs,” Kozachyn says.
“Rather than sitting around and waiting for opportunities, people are going out and creating their own.”
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 2, Issue 6 (June, 2012).
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