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Economy’s toll not as bad as predicted

Although the job placement rate for 2009 graduates is less than 90 percent for only the second time since 1982, the Executive Director for the Smith Career Center said she is pleased with the 87 percent placement rate for undergraduates.

That rate is based on the annual survey the center conducts, which polls August and December 2008 graduates and May 2009 graduates up to six months after graduation, Jane Linnenburger said.

“We’ve been conducting this study in the same way since the early ‘80s,” she said. “In the past years and when the rates declined from the previous year they fit in exactly with economic slowdowns.”

Although the outlook for 2009 graduates was originally estimated to increase 6 percent from the previous year, that later changed to a decrease of 22 percent, according to the National Association of Colleges and Reporters. The job placement rate was 94 percent for 2008 and 96 percent the two previous years.

The number of job listings, campus interviews and employers at job fairs all decreased last year. Graduates listed networking as the top lead to getting a job, followed by using the Smith Career Center, employer Web sites and previous employment contacts.

Communications and Fine Arts and engineering students were those with the lowest placement rates.

“The fact that Caterpillar rescinded offers and quit recruiting at the end of fall semester of 2008 had a significant impact on the ’08-’09 graduates,” Linnenburger said. “But many other large manufacturing organizations experienced similar business conditions and quit hiring.”

However, even though certain industries had high placement rates, that does not necessarily mean those students received the offers they were hoping for.

“While many nursing grads received impressive offers, we did see that the hiring slowed down for nurses, particularly in hospitals in larger cities,” she said. “They had a 97 percent placement rate, but some did not find the opportunities to be as plentiful as they had been in the past.”

Although the average business administration, communications and fine arts and education and health sciences salaries decreased, the average engineering and technology and liberal arts and sciences salaries increased.

The percent of students who continued education also increased from 17 to 19 percent. The percent of students not seeking jobs, because they plan on going to graduate school next year, also increased from 2 to 4, according to the survey.

Although the 87 percent figure is what Linnenburger said she prefers to look at, the actual placement rate was 89 percent. This includes graduate and doctorate students, many of whom were employed while going to school.

The graduate school placement rate was 98 percent.

Two national studies have predicted that hiring will be the same as 2009 or 7 percent lower for the class of 2010. They have also predicted employers will attend fewer fairs in spring and will increase use of social media.