College Graduates Still Facing Brutal Job Market

By Yaffa Klugerman
November 18, 2009

A new survey released this week indicates that hiring of new college graduates plummeted about 35 to 40 percent this year and is expected to drop an additional 2 percent in the coming year.

According to the Michigan State University Collegiate Employment Research Institute's Recruiting Trends survey, hiring levels are at their lowest in several decades. Phil Gardner, director of the institute, admitted that the data--which was based on responses from more than 2,500 companies and institutions--was much bleaker than he originally anticipated.

"Last year, we though labor would contract by about 8 percent," he told the Daily Texan [from an article originally located at], the student newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin. "When November rolled around and things got really bad, it contracted another 35 or 49 percent."

Yet Gardner, who will be presenting the survey results at the Trends in Recruiting Conference in Chicago later this week, also predicted that the job market will not get much worse. "It's kind of bottomed out," he told Michigan's Lansing State Journal. "The problem is the bottom is so low. . . . It's going to be a hard year."

The survey noted that companies with 500 to 4,000 employees expect to decrease hiring by 11 percent in the coming year, while large companies with more than 4,000 workers plan to cut back on hiring by 3 percent. But the news is more optimistic for companies with fewer than 500 employees: They plan to increase hiring by 15 percent in the coming year.

Gardner told The Chronicle of Higher Education that when employers consider hiring, they are looking for candidates with flexibility, an entrepreneurial bent, critical thinking and strengths that could be suitable for a number of positions.

"Skills are paying off more than a degree per se," he told the Chronicle.

He also noted that demand in engineering and accounting has dropped, while e-commerce, entrepreneurship, and environmental sciences have become stronger fields.

Kelley Bishop, career services director at MSU, said in a press release that it's important for college students to network, land internships and develop critical thinking skills as early as possible. That's because employers, he said, are much more concerned today about how new hires solve problems.

"The premium is being placed on flexibility and adaptability," Bishop said, "because this change in the labor market looks like it's permanent. And those who can quickly adapt are the ones who are going to survive through this and prosper through this."

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