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Students and recent graduates are finding success in the job market after high unemployment rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Janessa Hageman, an assistant director of the College of Business Career Center.

The unemployment rate has been on a steady decline since its rate of 14.7% in April 2020, reaching 4.6% in October 2021, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

In the beginning of the pandemic, when unemployment rates began to rise, Hageman said the career center worked to help students figure out their next steps in “a time when you couldn’t go do anything.”

“We did face a lot of students losing their internships,” Hageman said. “When we think about large companies that our students are going to, those companies were trying to stay afloat and so the first things to go were internships.”

Hageman said this led students to apply for more jobs due to the uncertainty they faced, especially as employers had the “upper hand” in a time of less available jobs.

“We probably saw less students get that internship-to-full-time offer that could traditionally happen, just because employers were still really unsure of what was happening in the workforce,” Hageman said. 

Scott Swenseth, an associate professor of supply chain management and analytics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, attributes the current rise of workforce opportunities to companies returning to pre-pandemic operating levels.

“Over time, organizations figured out new processes or moved toward more normal operating conditions, so many opportunities have returned,” Swenseth said. “Given the number of employees that have chosen this time to switch careers or organizations, or have left the workplace permanently, many organizations have good opportunities available.”

Hageman said the students she works with have recently been able to find at least 10-15 jobs they can apply for that meet their specific criteria.

“I think a lot of companies started to re-envision some of their roles, and so we’re seeing different job titles that we didn’t see a year ago,” Hageman said. 

For Nebraska, the unemployment rate is at an “all time low,” according to Swenseth. Students and recent graduates looking to work out of state may soon reap the same benefits.

“States that haven’t had the rate of [unemployment] decline of Nebraska, especially those focused more heavily in the service sectors or have been slower to get back to pre-pandemic operating levels, will likely continue to see declines in their unemployment rate as they continue to recuperate,” Swenseth said.

Students are not only having success in finding jobs, but are facing the problem of being overwhelmed with having “so many options,” Hageman said, a problem they did not face during the pandemic.

“It’s easier on one hand because you can actually find what you’re looking for. For last year’s class, there were less postings, you may have not got to be so picky and choosy,” Hageman said. “I think it’s easier [now] in that regard because there’s more opportunity.”

The job outlook for this year’s graduating class looks significantly better than last year’s, according to Hageman, and there are “vastly more opportunities.”

“As the economy has bounced back a little bit, especially over this summer … it’s opened up an even bigger window of jobs,” Hageman said. “So now I don’t see people not finding what they’re looking for. There’s so much choice.”

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