Class of 2003 Steps into Shaky Job Market

ByABC News via logo
May 27, 2003, 3:48 PM

May 28 -- Graduation day is supposed to be a joyful day for college seniors eager to start earning paychecks with their new degrees, but from Bunker Hill Community College in Boston to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the future is not so bright for the class of 2003.

With unemployment figures rising, new college graduates are setting off into a not-so-brave new world of cautious employers, limited job opportunities and so-so starting salaries.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 42.4 percent of surveyed employers plan to hire fewer new grads than they did last year. Overall, the association is predicting a 3.6 percent decline in opportunities for the class of 2003.

As if job opportunities weren't grim enough, more and more companies many with skeletal staff levels due to the tough economy are placing a premium on experience, and only want to hire people who require minimal training.

For those new grads who do get a job, starting salaries are mostly flat or slightly down. Those with computer science degrees will be offered salaries that, on average, are nearly 8 percent lower than the class of 2002 received.

Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers

To make matters more complicated, not only will 1.2 million new grads be competing against each other, but they will also be competing with nearly 9 million unemployed for only 3 million available positions. Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment for people ages 20-24 rose to 10.1 percent in April, up from 9.9 percent at this time last year and 7 percent in 2000.

Majority of Grads Pessimistic

In a recent poll by MonsterTRAK, many graduating seniors seem cognizant of the grim labor environment, with 53 percent reporting that they did not expect to receive any job offers when they graduate, compared to 23 percent in 2001.

Graduates' attitudes about their future professional experiences have changed dramatically over the past three years. According to a recent survey of business and computer science graduates in Atlanta, new grads no longer view themselves as free agents with the ability to constantly move from job to job seeking the best compensation and experience.