Penn State fall semester to bring seasonal spike in employment

“Help wanted” signs can be seen throughout downtown State College, an annual harbinger of the new school year that fast approaches.

Business owners said as students start to roll back into town for the fall semester, they’re looking to hire help.

State labor market analysts said that State College annually has a seasonal job spike through August, September and October, due to an additional estimated 40,000-student increase in population, and that helps boost the economy.

For business owners and students, it’s a benefit, as owners said they get the part-time help they so desperately need, while students can make a few bucks with a job that works around their schedule.

“For me, its a big incentive for two reasons,” said Rachel Lush, a freshman looking for a part-time job. “I want to have some spending money and want to build my resume.”

Jeff Garis, Penn State senior director of Career Services and affiliate professor of counselor education, said the university works with students looking for jobs.

“We encourage it,” he said. “First, we think employment is good on a resume even if the job is not in the student’s profession.”

Garis called that “transferable skills” that show employees the student has motivation, leadership and the will to take control of their future.

“Second, it helps the student financially,” Garis added. “A lot of students get a job to make ends meet.”

Neither Penn State nor the state Department of Labor and Industry had statistics on the number of Penn State students who work, but Garis said, to the best of his knowledge, information from universities around the country shows that as many as half or more of college students work while attending school. Each year the number of students who work grows, he said.

Garis said this kind of employment includes full-time, part-time, internships or any other experience students get in the workforce both on and off campus.

For those businesses downtown, owners and representatives said one of the main things they’re looking for in a potential employee is customer service skills and the willingness to work on football Saturdays.

“There’s always a hiring spike for us this time of year,” said Student Book Store owner John Lindo. “When school starts back up, it’s busy. And with football coming up, it’s especially busy on the weekend. We’ll need someone who’s willing to work then.”

Lindo said in the next couple of months, he expects to hire an additional 30 part-time workers.

“The nice thing is, we work around a student’s class schedules,” he said. “We’re busy and need the help, and they’re looking for a job.”

The hiring spike is similar for Lindo’s competitor down the street on East College Avenue, The Family Clothesline.

Advertising manager Caroline Gummo said she expects the store will hire an additional 25 people.

“It’s a lot of seasonal work,” she said. “We need the help between August and the holiday season.”

Labor market analyst Steven Zellers said the job spike in downtown State College is attributed to the university.

“Thousands of students are coming back to the area creating job growth in the area that impacts the college," Zellers said. "It’s not that strong downtown during the summer because there is not another overly large sector that caters to the college.”

In August 2012, Zellers said the number of jobs increased by 1,600. In September, jobs went up by 3,500 and in October, another 1,800.

“It spikes in the fall when school starts and is back in session,” he said.

The previous two years, Zellers said, were similar.

“This is a very typical hiring spike in State College for this time of year,” Zellers said.

By November, Zellers said, the job growth in State College hits a plateau, but spikes again by February when students come back to the area from winter break.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” Garis said. “Students are piling in so employers have a larger pool of candidates to choose from to get some help and in return, the student gets some kind of experience and financial help.”