NJ's largest job fair draws crowds

January 7, 2009 1:48:30 PM PST
Forty-three-year-old Janet Wos has been laid off; 28-year Navreet Sangari is worried about losing his job; and 20-year-old Josh Clark is concerned he may not be able to land an entry level position in his chosen field. Though the New Jersey workers are at very different places in their professional lives, they were all drawn to the state's largest job fair Wednesday in central New Jersey.

The event at Rutgers University drew 190 employers and thousands of job seekers even as the nation braces for the release of another dismal jobs report Friday and looks for an end to the recession.

"I'm scared," said Wos, who was laid off nine months ago from her job as a tax specialist with New York-based accounting firm Deloitte and Touche LLP. "It's hard to find a job. No one wants to hire anyone with any experience."

Richard White, director of career services at Rutgers' New Brunswick campus, said it's not unusual for companies to hire and fire simultaneously during hard times in a bid to trim labor costs by replacing unproductive veteran employees with recent graduates who are cheaper and hungrier.

Some companies are undoubtedly doing exactly that, he said, in a year in which U.S. job losses are expected to top 2 million.

Economists are predicting that December's unemployment report, which will be released Friday, will show the total economy lost a half-million jobs last month after a loss of 533,000 in November. New Jersey lost 34,000 jobs during the same period.

Meanwhile, universities and colleges continue to churn out new workers.

Rutgers' campuses in New Brunswick, Newark and Camden will send 11,000 new graduates into the workplace in May and colleges around the nation will generate more than 1 million new grads, according to White.

There just aren't enough jobs to go around.

The U.S. economy has to generate about 125,000 new jobs a month just to create work for young people entering the labor force, according to Anthony Chan, chief economist of JPMorgan Private Wealth Management in New York.

Josh Clark, a junior majoring in economics at Rutgers New Brunswick, said he hopes to land a summer internship to strengthen his chances of getting a job when he graduates in May of 2010. Clark said he's alarmed by the comments his economics professors have made.

"They've got me worried," Clark said. "I'm looking for whatever I can find."

White is advising students like Clark to lower their initial job expectations, expand the geographic area where they're willing to work, consider taking more internships and pursuing additional education to delay entering the work force until the economy improves - possibly in the second-half of this year, Chan said.

White is also encouraging grads to take a closer look at government work, because those jobs typically feature more job security and benefits.

At the FBI kiosk, jobseekers on Wednesday crowded around the three special agents.

The bureau announced plans Monday to ramp up its recruitment efforts by adding 850 new agents this year and 2,100 other staffers.

"We're hiring," said FBI Special Agent Debra Jean.

Investments banks were noticeably absent from the lineup of companies at the job fair. But Duluth, Ga.-based Primerica, a subdivision of Citigroup Inc., was present.

The federal government has already plowed more than $40 billion into Citigroup, which announced plans to cut 53,000 jobs in November. Primerica markets the banking giant's financial products, according to Uziel Iram Pellot, a Primerica recruiter.

"We're looking to take in new people," Pellot said.

Navreet Sangari's employer is also reducing its work force. The computer systems engineer, who graduated from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2007, said he's the junior member of his department at AT&T with only 18 months there. Sangari said Dallas, Texas-based AT&T plans to trim 12,000 workers this year and he's concerned he could be one of them.

"As the new guy, I'm at the bottom of the chain," Sangari said. "I lost some colleagues to layoffs last month and I'm afraid I might be next."

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