Job-Market Churn a Fact of Life for U.S. Workers
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
On Wednesdays, we focus on the workplace. And today, students wonder how long they'll have one.
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INSKEEP: Students in Paris staged a victory celebration yesterday, after the government shelved a labor law allowing employers to fire young workers for no specific reason.
Here in the United States, college seniors soon will be entering the workplace, but many students here say they have given up on the kind of job protections that French students fought to keep.
NPR's Elaine Korry reports.
ELAINE KORRY reporting:
In a lecture hall at the University of California at Berkeley, a few dozen students are learning about French political economy with Professor Jonah Levy.
Professor JONAH LEVY (Associate Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley): Now, in today's discussion, I want to pick up on the crisis of France's status economic model, which obviously has a certain...
KORRY: American students in this class have been following events in France. But frankly, many have a hard time seeing the French point of view.
Scott Lukas, a political science major, says during his lifetime, job security has become a thing of the past.
Mr. SCOTT LUKAS (Political Science Major, University of California, Berkeley): Well, my father has worked at the same job since he was 25, I think. And I don't expect that to happen. You know, a couple years on the job, and then move on. And I think that's going to be the norm.
KORRY: Job protections in France have come at a price. The economy is stagnant, and the jobless rate for young people is high.
Youth unemployment is also high in the U.S., but Lukas says he'll take his chances on the more dynamic job market here.
Mr. LUKAS: France is probably too far on the one extreme. And perhaps the American case is too far in the other extreme. But I'd prefer to err on the side of the American system rather than the French system.
KORRY: Research bears that out. According to a couple of recent studies, the labor market is strong for college seniors. CareerBuilder.com surveyed hiring managers, and 70 percent said they planned to recruit recent college grads this year.
Nearly half of all college seniors are job hunting, yet according to the career services firm Experience, only about one in five of them already has an offer. That's true at elite schools like Berkeley, and across the Bay, at more modest San Francisco State.
Mr. AARON BROWN (Senior, San Francisco State College): No, I haven't gotten a job yet.
KORRY: At the student union, 22-year-old Aaron Brown says he's about to graduate with a degree in hotel management. He's not sweating that first job, and he doesn't expect to stay in one place forever. If he's fired, Brown feels sure he'll land on his feet.
Mr. BROWN: I think I'll have job security in the sense that I'll be able to find a job somewhere else in the event that I need to. I don't necessarily think that my position isn't easily replaced, but there's always going to be opportunity everywhere in the world for the hospitality industry.
KORRY: Students at the main plaza at UC Berkeley aren't quite so confident.
Melanie So is an activist with Students for Responsible Business. She says the economy is so competitive, she's worried about her gain, even with her Berkeley degree. A business major, So thinks corporations would be wise to offer employees at least a measure of job security.
Ms. MELANIE SO (Activist, Students for Responsible Business): I think it just improves the work environment that much to know that your company at least recognizes your hard work. If your sector is not making money, yeah, you might get cut, and it's nothing personal. But, to live on a day-to-day basis knowing that tomorrow you might not have that job I think is very tough, and I don't think that's productive at all in the workplace.
KORRY: In fact, even as employers can cut jobs at will in the U.S., one of their biggest worries is holding on to good employees. In a free market, the lack of loyalty can cut both ways.
Elaine Korry, NPR News.
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