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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

NPR's business news starts with another spike in unemployment.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: The government says the economy lost another 467,000 jobs in June. Unemployment is now 9.5 percent. This is the worst time in decades to be looking for a job. Imagine if you're a new college graduate thrust into the job market for the first time.

NPR's Martin Kaste takes a look at how new graduates are handling the job market.

MARTIN KASTE: Kimberly Betz, director of career development at Minnesota's St. Catherine University, says last fall's economic meltdown came as such a shock to many college seniors, their reaction was to postpone their job search.

MS. KIMBERLY BETZ (Director of Career Development, St. Catherine University): They wanted to wait a little bit, see if the market picked up. They wanted to kind of maybe not deal with it right away.

KASTE: Indeed, in a national survey of students completing bachelor's degrees this spring, less than 20 percent said they'd lined up full time jobs, compare that to 50 percent two years ago. The survey was conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Researcher Edwin Koc said, despite the bleak numbers, the new grads seem oddly confident.

Mr. EDWIN KOC (Researcher, National Association of Colleges and Employers): A majority of the students responding to the survey think that they will be employed within three months of their graduation. We don't think to a certain extent that the ramifications of the economic situation have completely sunk in.

KASTE: Then again, maybe these college graduates are right not to panic.

Ms. MELANIE HOLMES (Vice President, Manpower): There are 12.5 million job openings in the United States currently.

KASTE: Melanie Holmes is the VP with the employment service company, Manpower.

Ms. HOLMES: We know that the hardest jobs to fill in the United States include engineers, nurses, teachers, sales reps, technicians and IT staff.

KASTE: Many of those openings are off the beaten path, say in rural hospitals. But that's where recent graduates have a leg up on older job-hunters. It's a lot easier for a 22-year-old unburdened by mortgage or kids to go to where the work is. Martin Kaste, NPR News.

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