Employers slashed 80,000 jobs in March

April 4, 2008 7:04:43 PM PDT
The U.S. Labor Department released its March jobs report Friday, and it doesn't show good news about the state of our economy. The report reveals employers cut 80,000 jobs last month. That's the most in five years. Construction, manufacturing and retail were all hard hit. The unemployment rate jumped to 5.1 percent, but there are a few bright spots.

In today's economy, it matters if you have a college education. May and June graduates are hitting the job market as talk of a recession grows. Their prospects depend on their major. The sobering fact is there are nearly a quarter-million fewer jobs today than at the start of the year.

More than half of the jobs lost were in manufacturing -- 48,000 last month and 310,000 in the past year.

A La-Z-Boy recliner plant in North Carolina plans to cut its workforce in half. A freight truck plant is laying off more than 1,000 workers. They will be joining workers in financial services, such as Sue Wietecha of Dublin. She lost her job as an escrow officer in February. She's still waiting for a chance to get into a training class to learn bookkeeping.

"You just kind of have to wait for an opening. You have to keep checking until she has an opening available... it's been at least six weeks," says Wietecha.

The bleak job picture has some college students worried as they get close to graduation.

"It's really hard to figure out what you want to do with your future and make a plan that things aren't there anymore like they used to be. You don't have many opportunities," says college junior Diondra Doerr.

It's the liberal arts or humanities major who may have trouble finding a job. Demand is high though for other fields.

"The areas of computer science, the accounting majors, many of the engineering majors... the employers are starting to see a shortage in that area, so what you're probably seeing is a lot of activity in those areas," says Jack Brewer, director of San Francisco State's Career Center.

Over 100 employers have signed up to recruit on campus next week. On average, starting pay for oil industry jobs is $59,000, with engineering, consulting and accounting jobs not far behind. Some grads might even get a signing bonus.

"Yes, we're seeing an increase in signing bonus offers, especially earlier in the recruiting season. I think again what's driving that is tight competition for the best and for the brightest," says Brewer.

One of the other hot jobs right now is for debt collectors. The number of those jobs is expected to grow 23 percent in the next 10 years. Another bright spot, government jobs, as baby boomers retire.