College Grads Face a Bleak Hiring Landscape This Year

By Staff Report

Mar. 4, 2009

Seniors graduating from college this year will get diplomas, but they may not get jobs.

Employers expect to hire 22 percent fewer new graduates from the college class of 2009 than they hired from the class of 2008, according to a new study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The latest numbers also differ significantly from the fall, when employers’ hiring projections looked flat.

“Earlier, employers indicated that they expected to keep their new college graduate hiring levels even with last year,” Marilyn Mackes, the association’s executive director, said in a statement. “Our current survey shows that college hiring is as affected by the economy as other types of hiring.”

The drop in anticipated college hiring is part of an overall slack labor market, which has worsened rapidly amid the recession.

The expected decline in new-grad hires was prompted by the deteriorating economic situation, said the association, a professional group that forecasts trends in the job market.

“More than two-thirds of employers said the economic situation forced them to re-evaluate their college hiring plans, and nearly all of those said they have decreased their planned number of hires,” Mackes said.

The projected drop is likely to mean a sharp decline in employer activity on campuses this spring as well, with 66 percent of employers responding to the survey reporting plans to lower or eliminate spring hiring.

The latest association study also ends a string of positive hiring reports for new college graduates dating back to 2004. Students graduating in the early part of the millennium experienced major drops at the hands of the dot-com bust and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Hiring decreased 36 percent for the class of 2002 but steadied for the class of 2003 before rebounding in 2004.

Employers also seem cautious about the near future. More than 46 percent said they are unsure about their hiring plans for fall 2009, and 17 percent are already reporting that they expect to trim their college hiring further.

—Ed Frauenheim

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