There are some indi­ca­tions that the job out­look for Northeastern’s seniors is rosier than it is for the Class of 2009 nation­wide. According to a survey by the National Asso­ci­a­tion of Col­leges and Employers (NACE), campus job fairs are taking a big hit this year, largely because employers report plans to hire nearly 22 per­cent fewer 2009 col­lege grad­u­ates this year. These results, which were released recently in NACE’s “Job Out­look 2009 Spring Update” survey, rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant drop from orig­inal pre­dic­tions reported in the fall.

And while the number of com­pa­nies reg­is­tered at the University’s Feb­ruary career fair did drop from last year’s record 328 to 205, Northeastern’s still ranks as one of the largest career fairs in New Eng­land, said Maria Stein, director of the University’s Office of Career Ser­vices. Also encour­aging is the fact that actual job post­ings tar­geted toward North­eastern stu­dents only declined by 80 post­ings from the typ­ical 3,000 the career ser­vices office receives a year.

The prac­tical expe­ri­ence North­eastern stu­dents gain in co-​​op jobs and through other expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­ni­ties con­tinues to be a big draw for com­pa­nies, reported Stein and Johnson, a trend that is also sup­ported by the NACE 2009 job out­look survey. According to the report, nearly 95 per­cent of employer respon­dents indi­cated that work expe­ri­ence plays a strong role in hiring deci­sions, with 75 per­cent saying they look to hire can­di­dates with rel­e­vant work experience.

Inter­est­ingly, these num­bers were nearly iden­tical to the 2008 out­look report when the economy was much better, indi­cating that expe­ri­ence mat­ters no matter what the job fore­cast looks like.

Employers who reg­u­larly recruit at North­eastern echo the sen­ti­ment that expe­ri­ence counts: “[North­eastern grad­u­ates] are well-​​prepared from the start,” said Janelle God­frey, senior tech­nical recruiter for Microsoft Col­lege. “Many grad­u­ates can find entering the work­force an over­whelming adjust­ment, but that is where North­eastern has really given its stu­dents a leg up.”

Stein and Johnson report that their office is seeing the greatest decline in job post­ings for posi­tions in the finan­cial ser­vices industry. Their team is trying instead to target open­ings in insur­ance companies—following a pre­dicted 5 per­cent nation­wide increase of jobs in that industry, according to a report by the Col­le­giate Employ­ment Research Insti­tute at Michigan State University.

Johnson reported that on the whole seniors seem undaunted by the tough job market they face, per­haps buoyed by the fact that most have impres­sive expe­ri­ence under their belts, and by the fact that “The Princeton Review” recently ranked North­eastern No. 1 for job place­ment. How­ever, he said that he’s warning the Class of 2009 to expect it to take longer to find work. In the mean­time, he has this advice: “There are two pil­lars to the job search—checking the post­ings online and net­working. In this economy, net­working is going to be more impor­tant than ever.”