The economic recession continues to hit companies nationwide and two weeks ago it struck home. Eastman Kodak, formerly Rochester’s biggest employer, had to layoff more than 1,300 workers. As a result, the UR computer science department will most likely face a tighter budget in its collaboration with Eastman Kodak on research projects. Graduating seniors at UR, particularly from the computer science department, are facing greater uncertainty in the job market.

Kodak, a long-time major force in the city of Rochester, has been laying off workers for several years. Kodak now employs roughly a third of the employees it did in 2004. According to local news reports, it is the recent recession that has made the layoffs more noticeable. The Democrat and Chronicle noted that Kodak’s local employment peaked in 1982 with a total of 60,000 workers. Today its payroll is roughly 12 percent of that.
Employers are not the only ones facing a difficult situation. High layoff rates cause the unemployed to spend frugally.

‘The consumers are going to continue to feel very pessimistic,” Professor of Marketing George Cook said. Because workers are concerned that their job may not be secure and unemployment rates are on the rise, consumers will be far less confident about their expenditures and will be thinking twice before they decide to invest in anything new.

Rochester counts on newly graduated seniors to take job offers here so that their influence can help feed growth in the city. This vision was highlighted by Mayor Robert Duffy in his visit to the River Campus last week. Duffy expressed his feelings that the financial situation in Rochester is not novel and the current recession is only worsening chances of students sticking around hoping for a job opportunity.

The computer science department at UR has had a close relationship with Kodak Research Laboratories for several years. Chair of the computer science department Henry Kautz is not sure of how the economy is going to change the dynamic between UR and Kodak, but tightness in the budget involving research projects with Kodak is to be expected.

However, he added that any changes in the financial support that the University receives from Kodak will not affect the department’s own budget.
‘We do hope to be able to maintain the intellectual collaboration between their researchers and our faculty and students, which has long been of considerable value,” Kautz said.

Kautz expressed hope that the long-term relationship between Kodak and the computer science department would survive.

‘The economy always has its ups and downs,” he said. ‘A lean year or two isn’t the end of the world. What is important is that Kodak helped lay long-term foundations that will withstand downturns and will grow again in the boom times.”

Several seniors at UR who are computer science majors have been offered secure jobs at Microsoft, Kodak and several other institutions that they will start working at after graduation. However, they are aware of the volatile job market, particularly in technology -related professions.

Senior Zachary Alexander had a summer internship that led him directly to a job at Microsoft. He was notified that, unlike several other individuals who felt the effect of the layoffs, his job is secure.

‘Even high-tech jobs aren’t as safe as they used to be,” Alexander said. ‘Less jobs in Rochester is bad news. The state loves to bemoan the lack of 20-year-olds who choose to live upstate, but we go where the jobs are.”

Senior computer science major Christopher Clingerman remains fairly optimistic about the future of graduating UR students.

‘At the University of Rochester, many students have focused a good deal of their academic pursuits on research,” he said. ‘I am confident that these students will be better off in the long run than most people already in the workforce.”

Despite the poor Rochester economy, Duffy is optimistic.

‘[I am] hopeful that the Rochester economy will absorb these individuals as it has in the past,” he said. ‘We have a growing innovation economy that enables us to bounce back.”
Rochester has been dealing with the layoff trend for quite some time now, but with the nationwide recession, the issue has been more publicized. The city counts on students from UR to invest time and energy into the local economy, but without a change in the economic status, graduating seniors will be setting their hopes on job opportunities in other locations.

Hasan is a member of
the class of 2012.



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