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College grads face tougher job market

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"Between what's going on in the housing market, and with the gas prices, and everything increasing, I think [companies] are just being a lot more cautious … because they're not sure what's going to happen," says Andrea Koncz, an employment information manager at the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). "It's just starting to hit the college market," adds Mrs. Koncz, who believes the outlook for next year may be even worse.

While the number of jobs available for college graduates this year increased by 8 percent and average salary offers rose by 5.3 percent, the signs of contraction are clear, reports NACE. The class of 2007 saw a 17.4 percent increase in job openings – one of the best markets since the late 1990s. This fall it appeared that the situation would remain relatively similar for the class of 2008, with a projected 16 percent increase. But by early spring that number had dropped by half.

Unlike previous dry spells in which every industry tightened their belt, this year's slowdown appears focused on the industries hit hardest by the nation's economic woes: finance and construction. New positions in those fields decreased by 7.5 percent and 2.8 percent respectively, NACE reports. Meanwhile other sectors continue to flourish. Entry-level positions in the utility industry saw a 49.3 percent increase while jobs for grads in the government sector rose 32.5 percent.

"There's definitely still some positive news for recent college graduates," says Tanya Flynn, a career adviser at CareerBuilder.com, a Chicago-based website that connects applicants with employers. "I think they just need to put in a little more effort communicating with employers."

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