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NACE Survey: Better Job Market on Horizon for College Grads

Graduating seniors are likely to see a better jobs market this spring than seniors of the past few years, as employers plan to step up their hiring, according to a survey of employers by the Pennsylvania-based National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Compensation is unlikely to increase, however, the survey found.

“This is very similar to coming out of the 2002-03 recession, at least four new college hires,” says Edwin Koc, director of research for the association. “It’s not rebounding the same way for others in the job market,” Koc says. “If you’re over 40, college-educated and unemployed, you’re having a hard time getting back in the market,” he says, noting the national unemployment rate among people in the 25-35 years old age range is about 3.5 percent, compared to more than 9 percent overall.

The association’s survey, to which some 300 employers responded, suggested a 13 percent increase this spring in the hiring of graduating seniors. Most employers intend to keep pay flat, with some exceptions, the survey found. It was conducted last fall and is to be updated in March.

Shifts also are emerging in recruiting strategies, the survey found.

More employers are pursuing “location concentration,” which is recruiting at schools that are closer to where their facilities are located. The strategy is paying off, the survey found, as employers reported finding “better success hiring regionally.” By the same token, employers are reporting it “more difficult” to get students to relocate to pursue opportunities far from where they live in this uncertain economy. 

In fact, employers are increasingly targeting a certain group of schools and expanding those numbers to meet diversity hiring goals.

“They are willing to expand their outreach to meet their diversity requirements,” Koc says the survey indicated.

Employers also are trying harder to reach prospective hires through social networks, cutting significantly the cost of traveling to colleges for interview days and job fairs.

The survey results seem to mirror the anticipated employment picture at colleges around the country.

“What’s better than last year we won’t know for awhile,” says Joyce Edwards, executive director of career services at North Carolina A & T State University. Edwards echoes the findings of the NACE survey.  The school, which graduates about 1,000 students each spring and fall, is seeing an “uptick” in career fair participation by recruiters as well as an increase in campus interviews. “We’re also receiving a number of job postings online,” says Edwards, who adds she is encouraging graduating students to “be flexible” about where they will live when weighing job opportunities.

Atlanta’s Spelman College recruiting director Harold Bell says these days his school is getting as much employer traffic as it has historically, only in different ways. Today, he says, there is as much contact with employers by phone and job posting drops as there are actual campus visits by recruiters.

“There’s plenty of activity,” says Bell. “It’s not all visible to the campus.”

At Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, career services office director Ralph S. Sampson Jr., says job placement has become a “mixed bag.”

“There are a number of students who are getting multiple offers,” Sampson says. “There are a number of students who are struggling.”

A lot of the difference, Sampson says, is a student’s major. “You choose your major with heart,” he says. “You choose your minor with your head.”

For example, there is “extremely high demand” for seniors in finance, business management, information and computer technology, and less for those who may have majored in criminal justice, even those with a 4.0 average. A criminal justice major with a minor in Arabic is a hot product, however, he says.

The job market is good, Sampson says, “for those students who got an early start (say their sophomore year) and adjusted their majors and minors. The graduating senior’s plight is based on choices and decision-making process since their sophomore year.”

Koc says the results of the updated Jobs Outlook survey will be publicly released in April.

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