Steep Pullback in Campus Hiring Plans

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The hiring outlook at campuses across the U.S. has plunged since August, according to a widely cited survey of employers.

Although 146 companies polled this month by the National Association of Colleges and Employers said they plan to hire slightly more graduates (1.3 percent ) in 2009 than they hired this year, the same group had projected a 6.1 percent rise when surveyed just two months earlier, according to The Wall Street Journal. A drop that severe is "extremely unusual," the association observes.

A year ago, employers expected to boost their hiring 16 percent for the class of 2008 compared with the preceding year. (That projected increase narrowed to 8 percent by this past spring. It's not known how many offers actually were made.)

The financial sector blowup is a big factor in the pullback, especially for colleges that tend to send a high proportion of graduates to Wall Street. New York University told the Journal that about 15 percent fewer companies are recruiting there this year, with financial services accounting for most of the decline. In response, students are diversifying their search beyond Wall Street to include midsize banks, finance roles within non-financial corporations, and non-profit work. One NYU senior finance major who was considering working as a teacher at an "underperforming" school told the Journal that the banking downturn gives students like himself the freedom "to pursue your real passions."

The article notes that major non-financial employers like General Electric, Target and Walgreen are paring their campus hiring targets too. Meanwhile, this year's crop of bachelor's degree graduates is estimated to be 5 percent bigger than two years ago. On the bright side, the article cites accounting, public service, health care, education and technology, as areas where demand for recent grads remains strong.

Starting salaries for 2008 grads averaged $49,224, a gain of 7.6 compared with the prior year, according to the association. No increase is expected for 2009 grads.

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