Job Outlook Modestly Brighter For New Grads

PHOTO: Job seekers speak to a representative at a job fair at Illinois Valley Community College (IVCC) in Oglesby, Ill. on April 10, 2013.PlayDaniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WATCH Life After College

The employment outlook for new grads is sunny—without being what you'd call exactly blinding.

So say companies that responded to a spring survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), who reported they will increase their hiring of new college grads this year. Overall, an increase of slightly more than 2 percent is forecast, according to NACE. More than a third of respondents, however, said they planned to cut back hiring.

The slight increase represents a significant drop from what employers had projected in the fall of 2012, the last time NACE issued its Job Outlook report. At that time respondents said they expected to hire 13 percent more new grads from the class of 2013 than they hired from the class of 2012.

Marilyn Mackes, executive director of NACE, says the revised projection is consistent with the latest job reports for the economy overall, which show less growth than anticipated.

Andrea Koncz, NACE's employment information manager, tells ABC News that of NACE's 1,000 employer members, only about 20 percent to 25 percent respond to any given survey. Furthermore, the set of employers who responded to the spring survey is not identical to the set who responded in the fall. NACE's purpose, she says, is simply to get "a general idea of the college job market."

Employers, she tells ABC, "are more cautious right now, based on the overall economy. That's as true for adult hiring as it is for new grads."

She says current grads and those who will be graduating next year should be encouraged by employers' recruiting plans. NACE asked employers how sure or unsure they were of their plans. "We see more respondents saying that their plans are firm," Koncz says. "We take that as a positive. It's good news for this year's grads and for next year's."

Asked what majors employers most want to hire—and what qualities they most esteem in applicants—employers have remained consistent since the fall, says Koncz. The following are the degrees and majors in highest demand, followed, in parenthesis, by the percent of total respondents saying they will hire from each discipline:

Business (66.3) Engineering (63.3) Computer Sciences (51.5) Accounting (51.0) Economics (23.0)

Of the 13 academic disciplines listed in the survey, the humanities come in 10th (11.7 percent). Health Sciences come in last (3.1 percent).

Employers, asked what skills and qualities they most are looking for, rated the ability to communicate verbally as #1. Of nine qualities listed, seven fall into the "very to extremely important" range. The numerical ratings below represent a weighted average on a 5-point scale, where 1 is "not at all important" and 5 is "extremely important":

Ability to communicate verbally with persons inside and outside the organization (4.5) Ability to make decision and solve problems (4.5) Ability to obtain and process information (4.5) Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work (4.5) Ability to analyze quantitative data (4.2) Technical knowledge related to the job (4.1) Proficiency with computer software programs (4.1) Ability to create and /or edit written reports (3.6) Ability to sell or influence others (3.4)