Notebook > Business

A good time to be graduating

Business | Seventy percent of employers say they will increase starting salaries for new college grads this year

Issue: "Daniel of the Year 2004," Dec. 11, 2004

Timing is everything, especially for picking up that college diploma. And experts say this year's senior class is entering the hottest job market in years.

A recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers predicts a 13 percent increase in college hiring over last year. Seventy percent of employers say they will also increase starting salaries for new college grads, with an average expected increase of 3.7 percent.

"More than 80 percent of responding employers rated the job market for new college graduates as good, very good, or excellent," said Marilyn Mackes, the association's executive director. "In comparison, last year at this time just over 38 percent gave the job market those ratings."

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Experts say the brightening job prospects are the result of companies hiring to handle new work in a recovering economy, as well as the anticipated exodus of retiring baby boomers.

"We've seen employers that have cut back the last few years looking around the office saying, 'We've got this new work. Who's going to do the job?'" said Lee Svete, Notre Dame's director of career services.

The hottest career fields this year appear to be accounting, finance, and nursing. The increased demand for accountants is the unlikely offshoot of the accounting scandals that rocked many giant corporations last year, and the new importance companies are now placing on these services.

For example, Ernst & Young plans to add 4,000 new college grads to its workforce this year, while PriceWaterhouseCoopers expects to hire 3,100 accounting majors. "Accounting is always a safe field," Rita Bocchinfuso-Cohen, associate director of career services at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "It tends to be one of the early indicators of an improving job market. People in every industry need accountants."

Another field on the rebound is computer science, where experts say this year's graduates are finding the best job market since the bust. But other majors aren't so lucky. Analysts say engineers, business majors, and journalists will still see fewer recruiters on campus this school year.

Shopping tip

Have you finished your holiday shopping? If you're like most Americans, there's still plenty left on your list.

More than 133 million shoppers spent $22.8 billion during the first official holiday shopping weekend of the year, but the National Retail Federation says that amounts to just 10 percent of total spending. In fact, just 1 in 12 consumers completed their Christmas shopping on "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving.

That's good news for retailers hoping to see an increase in sales this year with an improving economy, but it spells trouble for those who want to avoid long lines and hunting for parking spots.

To assist these shoppers, MasterCard International researched its transaction data to determine the best times to head to the store.

"If possible, we advise people to do their shopping on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays," said Michael Manchisi, senior vice president of MasterCard International. For those who can't shop early in the week or early in the morning, Mr. Manchisi said to wait until later in the evening.

So when is the worst time to shop? MasterCard says the busiest day of the year most likely will occur on Dec. 23 and the busiest hour most likely will be from 2 to 3 p.m. CST on Christmas Eve.

"Our data shows that when Christmas Eve falls on a Friday, as it does this year, that day is even more crazed than usual," Mr. Manchisi said. "If you wait until then to do your shopping this year, you'll need a lot of patience."

Balance Sheet

•Phil Knight will step down as president and chief executive of Nike Inc., the $12 billion athletic shoe and clothing company he co-founded and built into the world's largest shoe manufacturer and one of its best-known brands. Mr. Knight, 66, gave no reason for his resignation, which is effective Dec. 28.

•With a shortage of flu vaccine this season, some Americans may be turning to old-fashioned remedies. Campbell Soup Co., the world's largest soupmaker, said its soup sales rose nearly 10 percent over the same period last year, reversing a trend of slumping sales.

•Pulitzer Inc., which publishes the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Arizona Star, and about a dozen other daily newspapers, is exploring the possibility of selling the company's assets. With a price likely to be set at $1.5 billion, most analysts believe Gannett Co. is the most likely suitor.

•With a $10.1 billion buyout of local growers, President Bush will end the federal government's role in setting prices and controlling the production of tobacco next year. The Depression-era system of auctions has been weakened in recent years by rising imports of cheaper foreign tobacco and an overall decline in smoking.


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