This year's crop of U.S. college graduates is facing a much bleaker job market than its recent predecessors. Employers expect to hire 36 percent fewer graduates this year than they did in 2001.
Some fields are especially hard hit. Hiring projections among consultant firms, for example, have plunged 90 percent this year.
Camille Luckenbaugh of the National Association of Colleges and Employers says employers in most other categories are still hiring. They are just not hiring the way they have in the past.
"We had [in the past] heard stories of employers going into clubs at night and handing out business cards, doing any thing to try to get students to come in for interviews with their companies. So we're really looking at quite a contrast now, where all of a sudden there aren't tons of jobs and students aren't walking away with multiple offers and signing bonuses the way they have in the past few years," she said.
Ms. Luckenbaugh says for most of the Class of 2002 graduates, who came of age during an unprecedented economic boom, today's job market is a rude awakening. "The last time we had a situation like this was the early '90s, and obviously the kids who are graduating now were not paying much attention to that. They have seen their friends over the past few years getting these wonderful jobs, and now unfortunately when it is their turn, they are not seeing this," she said.
The view is different for young people from other countries.
Take Argentine attorney Veronica Quixelos, for example, who came to the United States last year to get a masters degree in international law. She said the economic problems in Argentina are so bad she has decided to look for work in the United States instead of returning home right after graduation.
"I have a job in Argentina, but the law firm where I work, they are firing people. If I stay one more year, wait for the situation to relax a little bit, and then go back, the situation I hope will be more normal," she said.
In contrast, Camille Luckenbaugh said, many U.S. students are choosing to go to graduate school in hopes the U.S. job market will have improved by the time they are finished. "Typically when the economy takes a downturn you do see applications to graduate school increasing. Students that already had plans for going to graduate school are now thinking they will go now and hopefully come out when the market is better," she said.
The U.S. Educational Testing Service reports the number of people taking the exam for graduate school admissions jumped 12 percent this year, after remaining unchanged for several years.