This spring's college graduates are having a tough time lining up jobs, and because of a number of international crises there is no sign that the job market will improve soon, job placement experts say.
Companies are hiring, but not at the same rate as they have in the past.
"It certainly feels like the job market is on hold," said Gail Rooney, director of Kansas University's Career and Employment Services. "Employers are being cautious about their hiring and their prospects for hiring."
Universities throughout the country are facing the same uncertainty, said Philip Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University.
"In all my 20 years of doing this, I haven't been quite as pessimistic," Gardner said.
In August, a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers showed that employers expected to hire 3.6 percent fewer graduates this spring. When the survey was updated in December, one-third of respondents said they planned additional cuts.
Certain areas are worse than others, Rooney said.
"The food industry is more recession-proof," she said. "People still need to eat."
But anyone trying to find jobs in consulting and high-technology areas faces a challenge, Rooney said. The retail market is holding its own thanks to companies such as Target and Walgreens, along with some insurance companies interviewing for management positions, she said.
"It's going to take you longer to obtain a post-graduate job, and those who have the best job search skills are going to do better," Rooney said she is telling students.
That means students need to prepare better resumes, do a better job of selling themselves, focus on networking and take full advantage of career placement services, Rooney said.
One area of opportunity for graduates appears to be federal government jobs, Rooney said. About 50 percent of government employees will be eligible to retire in the next two to five years, she said.
KU students also are being encouraged to start their job search while juniors and try to gain experience through internships, Rooney said.
In addition to a lack of jobs, many positions that are available are offering lower salaries than in the past.
The average salary offer to computer science graduates dropped 13.1 percent, from $51,429 in January 2002 to $44,678 this January. Starting salaries slipped in many engineering disciplines but increased about 1 percent for liberal arts graduates.
The 400 engineering students who will graduate this spring from the University of Missouri-Columbia are feeling the pinch, said Matthew Reiskie, assistant director for the school's career office.
"I think we got spoiled a couple of years ago because the economy was so good that students could push things off until the last minute and still receive very good employment," Reiskie said. "Now the companies that are hiring are not filling as many positions, so the market is pretty competitive."
KU students can get advice from career resume doctors who will be available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today through Thursday on the fourth floor of the Kansas Union.