Terry Powers will start a new career as an accountant after she graduates from Monmouth University in May.
Powers, 49, a mother of four and an office coordinator at the university's software engineering department, already has lined up a job as an entry-level accountant at KPMG's office in Short Hills, N.J.
"I knew that accounting is a wide-open field and there is a lot of demand for accountants and auditors," said Powers of Middletown, N.J. "I knew that the positions were out there."
Employers, in a rush to replace baby boomers that are set to retire, have decided to increase their ranks of employees from newly minted college graduates. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers survey released last month, employers expect to hire 8 percent more new college graduates this year then they did last year.
That contradicts the trend in the overall job market, with rising unemployment and a decline in the creation of new jobs, said Edwin Koc, director of strategic and foundation research for the association.
"A lot of companies are planning for retirements in the near future and trying to put people in the pipeline," Koc said. "They continue to hire even in a difficult economic climate simply to maintain a level of experience that will be there once these individuals retire."
But the tough economic times have hit new graduates, too. Last fall, employers projected that they would increase hiring of new graduates by 16 percent, not the 8 percent now predicted.
Still, many career placement offices are seeing interest from prospective employers.
Rutgers University in New Jersey maxed out its career fair in January with 255 employers, with some on the waiting list as well, said Richard L. White, director of career services.
Employers may have learned from past recessions when they cut back on new graduate hires and found that they lacked talent five years later, White said.
Monmouth University, in West Long Branch, N.J., booked up its career day, held this month, within two weeks of sending invitations to employers, said William Hill, assistant dean of placement and student employment.
But Georgian Court University, in Lakewood, N.J., saw a drop-off in employer participation for its job fair, said Steven Fusco, director of the office of career development. He said he surmised that employers had fewer recruiters to spread out and the soft economy dampened employers' interest.
The fields that have seen a decline are in specific industries, such as finance, Fusco said.
On the other hand, employers in the service sector, including the hospitality industry, are still hiring, he said. Also hiring are social services agencies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies such as the FBI, and companies such as Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods and Walgreen Co.
Graduates in demand include accountants, given the corporate need to meet requirements of auditing and reporting regulations, Hill said. Also in demand are students with technical degrees, such as computer sciences and software engineering, he said.
Monmouth University's Powers said at first, she was concerned that her age would limit her job search, pitting her against traditional students looking for entry-level jobs. But she learned how to use her work and life experience to her benefit.
"I got the degree in five years, while working full time, while having a family, demonstrating that I have that work ethic to put in the amount of hours necessary to get the job done," Powers said. "KPMG recognized that and embraced it and I am quite excited to have the opportunity to go with them."
(c) 2008, USA TODAY International. Distributed by Tribune Media Services International.