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Published: Wednesday, 4/14/2010

Jobs few for new graduates

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Parents, clear out that basement: Freshly-minted college graduates are facing the worst labor market in decades as companies show continued resistance to expanding their work forces in the face of an uncertain economy.

"The college labor market has hit bottom," declares the 2009-10 recruiting trends survey by Michigan State University's Collegiate Employment Research Institute.

Employers that were expected to trim their hiring of new college graduates 8 to 10 percent last year instead slashed hiring 35 to 40 percent and are likely to stay at those depressed levels for some time, the report says.

The annual nationwide survey of 2,500 employers of varying sizes and locations found total hiring was expected to decline about 2 percent from last year.

"Looking out across the proverbial landscape, however, we see withered, failing seedlings, some green shoots, and several patches of brown," the Michigan State report said. "In other words, the market runs from tentative optimism to doom and gloom."

The survey breaks down respondents by company size, and it found that new graduates may want to concentrate their job-hunting efforts on smaller companies, especially those with fewer than 500 employees. Employers with between 9 and 100 employees indicated in their responses that they expected to increase their hiring by up to 26 percent, while employers with 101 to 500 employees expected to increase hiring by 15 percent.

However, small company gains were offset in the survey by those who employ more than 500 employees. Tough times in the automotive and banking sectors were expected to shrink annual hiring of college grads at mid-sized companies by 11 percent, while large companies were expected to hire 3 percent fewer employees this year than last, the college's research found.

Local college-recruitment officials echo those findings. "I understand the economy is improving slightly, but certainly it's not where we'd like it to be," said Beth Nicholson, the director of career services at the University of Toledo. She said that while graduates in some disciplines - health care, hospitality - are having a slightly easier time finding employment in their desired fields than some others, it is still very challenging to enter the job market right now.

"Students have to be realistic, be diligent in their job search, be well-prepared, and be able to describe their skill set," Ms. Nicholson said.

According to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, just one in five recent college graduates who have applied for work has found a job.

For those who have been offered jobs, starting salary offers have declined about 2 percent from last year to an average of $47,673 for a college graduate with a bachelor's degree.

Hardest hit were graduates with degrees in business administration and marketing, whose offers fell 8 percent on average, while offers for those in computer-related fields rose as much as 6 percent, the association said.

A job fair for prospective educators Monday drew representatives from "40 districts interested in hiring UT students, and that's phenomenal, but it's not as strong as it has been in previous years," Ms. Nicholson said. "We're hoping by next year that we've reached the turnaround point."

Recruitment officials at Bowling Green State University were attending their own job fair for educators yesterday and did not return calls seeking comment.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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