Job Market Improves For Ohio’s Young Adults

Recruiters for U S Steel interview applicants at recent job fair at the Ohio Union in Columbus. The Pittsburgh based company has returned to college campuses to recruit as steel markets improve.(Photo: Tom Borgerding/WOSU)
Recruiters for U S Steel interview applicants at recent job fair at the Ohio Union in Columbus. The Pittsburgh based company has returned to college campuses to recruit as steel markets improve.(Photo: Tom Borgerding/WOSU)

Ohio’s unemployment rate for 18 to 24 year olds dropped to 10.9 percent last year. But, that’s still an improvement from 2010, during the height of the Great Recession, when nearly one out of every five young adults in Ohio was jobless. The drop indicates job prospects are getting better for those just starting their careers.

Its a weekday morning at the Ohio Union. 95 employers have set up booths in the ballroom. Many have job openings. Banks, pharmaceutical companies, insurance firms, media outlets, local school districts, manufacturers, all looking for new talent.

“Today we’re looking for electrical engineers,” said Aaron Valleroy.

Aaron Valleroy recruits for U.S. Steel in Pittsburgh. The manufacturer has returned to campus recruiting as it expands steel production in the region for the first time in a generation.

“We’re seeing the steel business pick back up. It’s doing well. We continue to see the business come back and grow. So, we’re very pleased.” Valleroy adds.

As Valleroy finishes the interview, eight applicants have lined up to submit resumes and discuss job prospects. This scene is common through-out the ballroom. Young adults, professionally dressed, carry resumes in folders. Erica Mangino is slightly anxious about landing a job. She’s been searching for permanent work for about a year and will graduate in May with a degree in marketing. She describes the job market for young adults as “still competitive.”

“I mean it’s better than it has been before but it’s still not as good as what we would hope it to be. It’s kind of hard to find a job. But, if you have the experience and the things that people are looking for, I think that realy stands out,” said Mangino.

Mangino says she worked part time for one of the companies at the job fair so she hopes that gives her an advantage when she applies for a fulltime job at the firm. Mike Popelas graduated in December with a degree in Economics. He echoes Mangino’s sentiments about the job market for his age group.

“It’s definitely tougher than I thought, yeah, there’s a lot more that goes into searching for the right job and getting an interview and getting hired. It’s a lot more post graduate work. You have to do your homework on the companies and know what you want to do. It’s tough but I didn’t think it would be easy coming in,” said Popelas.

But, Popelas and Mangino have better chances of finding work this year compared to several years ago. Catherine Hanneman of Coyote Logistics in Chicago, and Brian Lloyd of MTD Products manufacturing in Brunswick, Ohio are both actively looking for new employees.

“Yeah we are hiring. We have about 30 fulltime positions available right now and we do a lot of seasonal employees at both of our facilities here,” says Lloyd.

“We’re a non major specific so we’re not necessarily looking at their actual academics. We’re looking for the candidate. So we’re looking for highly motivated people, self driven, people who can multi-task and communicate,” said Hanneman.

Job seekers Kevin Baumann and Jessica Holes share the upbeat mood of the job fair. Both have certificates to teach high school science and they anticipate many school districts will be hiring for the start of fall classes. Both brought dozens of resumes.

“Very optimistic at this point. A lot of teachers are retiring this year and next year. So there is going to be a major change or influx of new teachers,” said Holes.

Bauman adds, “So any school district that’s here. So we’ve got Gahanna, Olentangy, Worthington, this I Can school, Southwestern, and Columbus, so all of them.”

Next to the school recruiters, several banks and insurance companies are accepting resumes for entry level sales and data positions.

While the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says the unemployment rate for Ohio’s young adults remains in double digits, the rate has dropped to levels not seen since the start of the Great Recession in 2008.

Correction: An earlier version of the story underestimated the number of employers represented at the job fair.

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