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Students remain cautiously optimistic about bleak job market

A class of 2024 charm on a yellow tassel on a black background.
According to the National Association of College Employers, hiring is expected to dip by 1.9% this year.

Peter Cheney, a senior studying government and history at Connecticut College in New London has applied to more than 100 jobs since August. He’s only heard back from 10 employers and is still awaiting an offer.

“It's been very humanizing to be rejected from positions…It's a very isolating feeling to be graduating in less than 60 days, but not have any foreseeable future that's set up,” said Cheney.

Cheney’s story reflects a national trend. According to the National Association of College Employers, hiring is expected to dip by 1.9% this year. College seniors are entering a tighter job market, forcing many to readjust their expectations and expand their preferred work locations.

The immediate post-pandemic economy boomed, creating a need for jobs. That gulf allowed workers to leave their positions for higher wages in less expensive cities. However, the recent rise in interest rates to combat inflation has led to a dip in hiring and layoffs. The slowdown is impacting all sectors of the economy.

Kafui Kouakou, the assistant vice president of career development and experiential learning at Quinnipiac University says the economic stagnation, alongside a diluted market of experienced laid-off employees, now leaves Generation Z competing for fewer jobs.

“The competition [has] become very fierce for recent graduates,” Kouakou said. “When those layoffs occur, you have people who have a lot of experience now that were laid off, and some of them are willing to go back to the beginning and get those entry-level jobs.”

More than 300,000 employees lost their jobs in 2024, according to Forbes. Historically resilient industries like tech are facing the harshest layoffs.

This week, Dell laid off 6,000 employees, adding to the already 43,000 layoffs in the tech industry this year.

Emily Balboni, a senior at Quinnipiac University, has faced stress in her search for a job in software engineering. Despite applying for over 50 jobs, she has not received any offers.

“When I was heading into college, this was a field that was up and moving. There were so many jobs, it's like they couldn't keep up. And now being on the flip side where I'm applying, it seems like I can't get in no matter where I try,” she said.

Balboni has expanded her job search outside her home state of Massachusetts. Aspiring to teach coding to more women and non-binary students, she’s also considered enrolling in a master’s program.

John Bau, the director of career development at Quinnipiac University's School of Computing and Engineering says Gen Z’s social isolation during the Covid pandemic has led to recruiters seeking students with better “soft skills.”

“The students with technical backgrounds who can also bring some stronger essential skills — what used to be called soft skills — communication, teamwork, leadership, those are the students we're finding the greatest success,” Bau said. Despite slowdowns in hiring, both students and career experts remain optimistic about the class of 2024 landing positions.

“I'm pretty optimistic for class. I think you just have to have a driven attitude and can't give up. We're a very resilient group of people, so I know that necessarily won't be an issue,” Balboni said.

Cheney and his friends send each other job positions and workshop their resumes. He’s grown to appreciate the bonds he’s created with friends who are in the same place as he.

“Seeing the class of 2023 graduate and go into the workforce has been very reassuring for me and it also is a reminder that life isn't just going to stop,” he said. “I think that it's going to work out for everybody but there's always a few months that are just really stressful.

Terell Wright is a Larry Lunden News Intern based in New London. He attends Connecticut College, where he is studying political economy and history. Wright has reported for various outlets including The Day, American City Business Journals and WABE.

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