College grads: Best hiring picture in 4 years

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Attention new college graduates: you may not have to move back in with your parents after all.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers said Thursday that employers are planning to hire 19.3% more new college graduates this year than last year. That marks the association's best spring outlook since 2007, when employers were planning to increase hiring of new graduates by 19.2%.

The association reported in September that employers were planning to hire 13% more new college graduates in 2011 than they did in 2010. But the latest survey of 174 organizations shows that hiring this year will be even more robust.

"That's a good indication that the job market for new college graduates is gaining momentum," said Marilyn Mackes, the group's executive director, in a statement.

The improvement comes after hiring of new graduates plummeted during the recession, along with the overall U.S. job market. While the employment picture has brightened slightly this year, the nation's unemployment rate remains painfully high and economists say it will take years for employment to return to pre-recession levels.

Still, there is reason to be optimistic.

Mackes said employers are receiving fewer applications per job opening, suggesting that "current graduates now have more opportunities to choose from."

The number of job applications has risen 45% this year versus last year, according to the survey. But the total number of open positions has tripled over the same period, which means the average number of applications per job opening has declined to 21 from 40 last year.

The survey found that hiring is expected to increase across all regions and within most industries, but employers in certain technical and finance fields are among the most aggressive recruiters this year.

New college grads are wanted at oil and gas extraction companies, as well as chemical manufacturers. Computer and electronics companies are also hiring new grads, according to the survey.

The association reported last week that engineering majors continue to be the best paid of any discipline, with average starting salary offers of more than $60,000 a year. That compares with an average for all majors of about $50,000 a year.

But the outlook for hiring is also picking up in some parts of the financial services sector. After the financial crisis sparked huge layoffs in the banking industry, finical firms, insurance companies and real estate employers are planning to increase hiring of new graduates, the survey said.  To top of page

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