Employers Beef Up Their Summer Hiring

Students Find More Options, Both Hourly and Professional;
J.P. Morgan Chase's Big Plans

Wall Street Journal

May 31, 2007

The chances of landing a summer job -- be it a paid internship or a stint as a drive-in carhop -- are brighter this year than last, despite predictions of a slowdown in the economy.

Five years ago, jobs were difficult to snag as students were forced to compete with older workers and each other in a weaker economy. But in 2004, employment among 16- to 24-year-olds started rising, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. For the past two years, the percentage of people between the ages of 16 and 24 who were employed in the month of July has stayed constant at 59%.

"Even though the economy is starting to slow, unemployment is lower than it was at this point last year," says John Challenger, chief executive of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. The unemployment rate was 4.5% in April, down from 4.7% last year. The labor market "is still very hot," he says. "Wages are up because the competition for good teens is strong."

College career-services offices say employers ranging from financial-services firms to nonprofits are hiring more students. Web sites for young job seekers such as SnagAJob.com, CampJobs.com and Teens4Hire.org say they are seeing more job listings this year, too.

In recent years, it has become easier to find a specific job as such sites have proliferated. At the same time, more employers are posting on established sites such as Craigslist.org, and young job hunters are notifying each other of job openings through social-networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, says Trudy Steinfeld, executive director of the New York University Wasserman Center for Career Development.

The job market for young hires varies depending on region. But both job sites and college career-services offices say that overall, they are seeing more demand for young workers, particularly in the areas of accounting, finance, technology and health care.

Many of the better-paying jobs are summer internships, which employers are increasingly using to recruit staff after students graduate. Internships also allow employers to access young talent without having to pay as much as they would for experienced workers. The impending retirement of the first wave of baby boomers has accelerated the trend, says Steven Rothberg, president and founder of CollegeRecruiter.com, a job site for college students and recent graduates. "Employers understand that if they don't hire a college student or grad today, that student is not going to be able to fill the shoes of the baby boomer at the time of the baby boomer's retirement."

For students, internships offer a glimpse into a career they may want to pursue. Sara Stylinski, 20 years old, of Southington, Conn., took a paid internship at Pfizer Inc. this summer because she "always wanted to see what the pharmaceutical industry was like."

Investment banks, faced with increased competition from private-equity firms, are getting more aggressive about recruiting talent through internships, says Tom Fitch, assistant dean for career services at the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia. He says he is seeing more private-equity firms reach out to undergraduates, so "the banks are being smart in their strategy to get them committed earlier."

Indeed, the intern class of analysts and associates at the investment-banking division of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. has grown 39% this year, to 462. The bank aims to convert 85% of them to full-time hires. "The internship is really like a 10-week interview from both sides," says Deborah Korb Maizner, the bank's campus marketing manager.


Some Web sites for students who are still looking for a job this summer:

• SnagAJob.com
• Teens4Hire.org
• CollegeRecruiter.com
• CampJobs.com
• SummerJobs.com
• Craigslist.org

At consultants Bain & Co., undergraduate hiring for summer internships is up about 10% over last year. Big Four accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP is taking 1,800 interns this year, up from 1,700 last year. "We decided we need to make sure our intern pipeline is robust," says Amy Van Kirk, the firm's national director of campus recruiting. The firm has found that former interns who stay on full-time perform better and stay longer with the company.

Ms. Stylinski, who just finished her sophomore year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, started looking for internships last fall. Last year, she had an internship with a smaller consulting firm. "My plan is to get my feet wet in as many places as possible," she says.

Other students are more focused on lining their pockets. Ashley Groves, 20, had applied for internships at two television news stations, but she decided instead to work as an assistant manager at a swimming and tennis club in Greensboro, NC.

The job pays $12 an hour, she says. "Internships are great and all, but they don't pay near as much as these other summer jobs," says Ms. Groves, who just finished her sophomore year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Some retailers are also hiring more lower-paid seasonal workers this year. Drive-in restaurant chain Sonic Corp. franchisees plan to hire more carhops -- a position that usually pays minimum wage -- because they are extending their hours until midnight for the summer. During the rest of the year, locations stay open until about 10 p.m.

If summer travel keeps up, employers in hospitality, travel and tourism will continue to have more openings for teens, says Renee Ward, founder of the Web site Teens4Hire.org. There are also more openings for lifeguards this year, she says.

A growing number of smaller companies are employing virtual internships -- those that allow students to work remotely from their homes or dorms, says CollegeRecruiter.com's Mr. Rothberg. He says, however, that such internships generally don't make the best impression on résumés.

The task of finding summer employment is significantly more difficult for high-school students, says Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. He forecasts a decline in employment for the 16-to-19 age group, based on teen employment trends so far this year. Any future softening of the labor market will make job opportunities even scarcer, Mr. Sum says.