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Parents of college seniors may find their expectations of emotional and financial relief somewhat dashed this graduation season, especially if they recall the anticipation they had when they sent their children off to college four years ago. Results of the 2004 edition of the MonsterTRAK (a product of the global online careers market Monster) Annual Entry-Level Job Outlook a survey of college students, recent graduates and prospective employers points to a gradually improving entry-level job market, albeit one that is still extremely competitive.

In a March poll of 1,092 confessed collegiate career-seekers, MonsterTRAK found that 57 percent of this year's seniors intend to move back under their parents' roofs following commencement sayonara empty nest! By March, only 10 percent of seniors had been hired, according to the MonsterTRAK survey, while 16 percent had decided to delay their search in favor of attending graduate school.

Parents might be surprised, but students have more realistic perceptions of their prospects perceptions that have served as an accurate gauge of changing conditions in the job market. During the booming early months of 2001, 77 percent of seniors expected at least one job offer upon graduation. By 2003, 53 percent of graduating seniors did not expect any offers. Although slightly improved over 2003, the majority of current seniors still foresee no job offers accompanying their diplomas. In contrast, 83 percent of students set to graduate in 2005 are optimistic that they will receive at least one offer.

The perceptions of employers, amid widely touted signs of economic growth and generally improving job markets, also seem to foreshadow recovering conditions. MonsterTRAK found that 73 percent of employers say they'll hire entry-level workers by summer's end. Salaries for these positions are getting better too: 51 percent of employers anticipate paying an average starting salary over $30,000 this year; in 2003 42 percent of employers considered paying rookie salaries north of that figure.

Competition for jobs and salaries remains fierce. This year's graduates are competing against each other, of course, but must also vie with 5 percent of 2003 graduates still actively searching for jobs.

In an analysis of U.S. job postings by sector, Monster found that sales positions were the most plentiful, accounting for 27 percent of all nationwide entry-level spots. Administrative and support services followed with 10 percent, health care with 7 percent and customer service and call center posts with 6 percent. Not surprisingly, Los Angeles and New York City offer the largest number of entry-level jobs, each with 7 percent of the nationwide total, followed closely by Philadelphia (5 percent), Boston (4 percent) and Chicago (4 percent).

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