Saturday, April 20, 2002

Job market grows grim for new college graduates

By Kristina Goetz,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        So, you're a college grad ready to look for that dream job.

        The latest survey results from the National Association of Colleges and Employers show just how tough the search is going to be this year.

        “It's pretty grim,” said Jerry Bohovich, an NACE spokesman. “It's not the gravy train that it was.”

        The survey results released Friday by the Bethlehem, Pa.-based agency show employers expect to hire a whopping 36.4 percent fewer college graduates than they hired in 2000-2001. Some industries report cutting hiring more than 60 percent.

        More than 400 employers nationwide responded to the survey conducted March 26 through April 9 in which each was asked to predict fall 2002 college graduate hiring.

        “Unfortunately, the economic recovery came a little too late for the college class of 2002,” said Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director. “Consequently, we've seen a steep drop in college hiring this academic year.”

        The worst of it by industry:

        • Hiring projections are toughest among consultants, nosediving 89.7 percent.

        • Automotive/mechanical equipment manufacturers dropped 63.2 percent,

        • Computer/business equipment manufacturers fell 58.7 percent.

        “Yes, I am still looking,” said Matt Byrd, a Xavier University finance major.

        The 22-year-old from Dayton, Ohio, said he started out with the career services department on campus, posting his resume online in September. Now, he's enlisting the help of his dad, who's also in finance.

        Mr. Byrd has had two offers, but they weren't what he was looking for. He even made the cut for the final round of interviews for a job in New York, but the company picked someone else.

        “A lot of people are saying, "We need people with more experience,'” he said, “because of the tough market right now.”

        But he's not discouraged.

        “As long as I have an idea, I feel pretty good,” he said.

        Miami University senior Erin Vandenberg isn't so optimistic. She majored in psychology with a minor in criminology and planned to look for a job back home in Champaign, Ill., so she could be with her fiance. But the search is turning up dry.

        First, she took the police department exam, but she's on a waiting list until a job opens.

        “I could be on this list for a year and have them never contact me,” she said. “It's a big waiting game.”

        And all the jobs at the University of Illinois — with its main campus in her hometown — require a master's degree or only a high school diploma, so she's either over- or under-qualified.

        “It's driving my mom crazy because I have this bachelor's degree and it's not getting me anything spectacular,” she said. “If worse comes to worst, I'll wait tables or become a bank teller. It's something I've always feared.”

        Eventually, she'll contemplate graduate school, she said.

        So is there any good news?

        According to NACE survey results, insurance employers have the best hiring projections. Those surveyed said they expect to increase hiring more than 30 percent. Hiring among merchandisers will drop, but only by 1.3 percent.

        One group bucking the slowing trend is the federal government. It expects to hire 16.2 percent more new college graduates than last year.

        And local grads looking for local jobs might have it a little easier. The Midwest has the least negative outlook. College hiring is down 27.1 percent compared to 63.5 percent in the West, 39 percent in the Northeast and 28.1 percent in the South.

        Other national surveys also point to the same downward trend in hiring. The 2001-2002 survey done by the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University shows employers are reining in expenditures. That means no more big sign-on bonuses and fewer incentives to lure candidates. And don't expect multiple offers, either.

        But Dr. Phil Gardner, research center director, said there are a few things college students can do to help themselves.

        “For seniors who are graduating, they need to have a strategy,” he said. “I suggest looking at smaller firms first. They'll need to add labor faster.”


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