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Fewer Jobs, Better Pay Await Class of 2008

March 28, 2008
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When college seniors graduate this spring, they will encounter mixed labor market conditions—job opportunities will be scarcer, but compensation packages will be more generous.

These are some of the key findings in MonsterTRAK’s 2008 Entry Level Job Outlook. The report, which surveys employers as well as college students, was released March 24.

Only 59 percent of the 654 companies that participated in MonsterTRAK’s annual survey say they plan to hire 2008 graduates—a 17 percent drop from last year. What’s more, almost 30 percent of participants say they are unsure about their hiring plans right now, which is nearly twice the amount of reported indecision from when the survey was taken in 2007.

“Employers are antsy right now,” says Mark Charnock, vice president and general manager at MonsterTRAK—the division of Maynard, Massachusetts-based job board giant Monster that focuses on online student recruiting. “They want to see what happens with the economy before they go on major hiring sprees.”

The outlook isn’t all bad news for new grads. Those who do manage to land an entry-level position can expect to receive more generous compensation packages. One-third of the companies surveyed plan to increase starting salaries.

Average entry-level compensation will be $39,500—an increase from $36,000 in 2007. The rising trend is in line with projections from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, says Andrea Koncz, employment information manager at NACE. 

“Companies are aware of the impending generational shift in the workforce,” Koncz says. “They are going to do whatever it takes to attract young talent.”

Job market conditions also will vary drastically by industry, according to talent acquisition experts.

“If you are a graduate going into areas like accounting or health care, the world will be your oyster,” says Steven Rothberg, CEO of CollegeRecruiter.com, a Minneapolis-based online job board. “But if you are going into areas like retail or real estate, you’d better have a rich uncle, because it will be difficult to find a job.”

Despite the mixed forecast, recruiting experts say the overall job market is not as bad as it has been in previous downturn cycles. In 2003, only about 30 percent of companies participating in the MonsterTRAK survey said they planned to hire new college graduates.

“These are very different circumstances from back then,” Charnock says. “The market may not be booming, but there is no cause to be alarmed.”

New graduates don’t appear to be losing sleep either over their career prospects. Nearly 75 percent of the 3,603 college students who participated in the MonsterTRAK 2008 Entry Level Job Outlook 2008 say they expect to receive one or more job offers upon graduation.

This optimism, however, could erode when they start seriously hunting for jobs and going on interviews, Charnock says.

—Gina Ruiz

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