Hope on the Horizon? Employment Reports Suggest Job Prospects May Be Improving for 2010 Grads

As the National Association of Colleges and Employers releases pieces of the results from their 2010 student survey, a hopeful picture has begun to emerge. The percentage of recent college graduates with job offers climbed from 2009 to 2010, with fields such as business and technology showing the best prospects.

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New Grad

Hiring Rates Show Slow Increase

Even as the economy begins to show signs of recovery, the job situation has remained dire. Labor markets are struggling to recover, and just as they were showing signs of improvement, the stock market was thrown back into chaos as Europe hit the financial skids. Everywhere you turn, you hear the latest buzz phrase: 'The new normal,' or, things just aren't going to go back to the way they were.

The depressed job market has cast a pall over a time that is typically hopeful for college students: graduation. Although the job search is never easy, most students graduate with a sense of excitement and hope for their future prospects, ready to use their new skills to tackle the world. But with so few jobs available, recent grads find themselves competing with experienced professionals, and losing. Desperate for any experience, many have turned to unpaid internships, while jobless young adults were forced to move back home in droves.

But things may be turning around. The latest reports from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) offer a glimmer of hope in the form of a small, but significant, uptick in the college hiring index.

Back in October 2009, NACE launched a monthly poll of employers who are members of the organization. Known as the NACE Index, the polls monitor patterns in the hiring and recruiting of new college grads. In April 2010, the NACE Index showed positive results for the first time since the poll began.

Index scores range from 0 to 200, with 100 representing no change, scores below 100 representing a drop and scores above 100 representing an increase. Hiring activity jumped to a score of 103 in the March/April poll. That translates to 37.6% of responding employers who reported plans to increase hiring, up from 26.8% in February. Recruiting was down, but the report points out that this is primarily due to timing, since most employers recruit in the fall rather than the spring.

Business World

2010 Grads Accepting More Jobs

It's not just hiring potential that's looking up - more students are actually lining up post-graduation jobs. In addition to the Index, NACE has been tracking student employment status for their upcoming 2010 Student Survey. Early reports from the survey show that almost one-quarter (24.4%) of 2010 graduates who applied for a job this spring had one lined up by May. That's up almost five percentage points from spring 2009, when only 19.7% of students had a job by graduation.

The increase, however, isn't entirely due to an expanding job market. A big part of the improvement is the fact that students are getting less picky. NACE notes that 39% of students in this year's survey were offered jobs, and 59% of those students accepted them. Last year, 40% of students surveyed were offered jobs, but only 45% accepted them. Marilyn Mackes, executive director of NACE, notes that 'There appears to be a greater awareness of the economic realities among this year's graduates, and greater flexibility in the types of jobs they will consider.'

Students may be getting less picky because they're watching their peers continue to struggle. The New York Times reports that officials from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) remain pessimistic about the job market for young graduates. This April, the jobless rate for college grads under age 25 was 8%, which is actually higher than April 2009, when the rate was 6.8 percent. Although this is lower than the nation's overall jobless rate (currently 9.7%), it's still exceptionally high for college graduates, who typically have a lower unemployment rate than individuals without bachelor's degrees. In April 2007, before the recession began, the jobless rate for college grads under 25 was only 3.7 percent.

The continued uncertainty of the labor market has meant that, even while some of their peers are finding jobs, more and more students are going straight from college to graduate or professional school. NACE's student survey found that 27.4% of 2010 seniors planned to continue to advanced education, up from 25.6% in 2009.

Working

Incoming students who are wondering how to improve their job outlook when graduation time comes may be interested to learn that NACE identified two fields with the highest rates of job placement: business and tech. The top five majors with jobs this year were:

Students in these fields aren't just having more luck finding jobs - they're getting paid better than their peers as well. The average salary for graduates with a 4-year degree dropped 1.7% from 2009 to 2010 to $47,673. However, salaries for finance majors rose 1.6% to $50,546, and salaries for students in the computer sciences rose an impressive 5.8% to $58,746. On the other end of the spectrum, salaries for liberal arts majors fell 8.9% in the last year to $33,540.

Speaking to The New York Times, history major Liam O'Reilly, who just graduated from the University of Maryland, reports having applied to 50 different employers. He looked at positions as diverse as administrative assistant, paralegal and policy researcher, but barely even managed to get an interview. So he's joined the ranks of struggling liberal arts grads, taking a minimum-wage job selling software while he continues his hunt for a career.

Students: Want to learn more about the state of the labor market? Keep an eye out for Study.com's guide to getting hired.

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