When the doors opened at 10 a.m. Wednesday for Hofstra University's spring job fair, 50 anxious students were waiting. Allan Neuendorf and Christina Oliviero, both seniors majoring in accounting, were number one and two in line. Each held 40 resumes.
"I hear it's a tough market for accounting jobs," said Neuendorf, 21, of Oyster Bay.
"You've got to look very hard to find something," said Oliviero, 20, of Garden City.
The hundreds of college seniors who flooded the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex looking for jobs Wednesday are encountering a daunting shortage of full-time positions. Applicants, some with years of experience, deluge entry-level openings; nationally, there were 5.4 job-seekers per opening in January, according to the Economic Policy Institute - an improvement from December's figure of 6.0.
Nationwide, nearly as many employers say they plan to decrease hiring of new college graduates as those that plan an increase - 26 percent compared with 27 percent, according to a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey.
There's more mixed news for the Northeast: It's the region with the strongest projected increase in hiring, 5.6 percent. But that follows last year's regional decline of almost 40 percent.
And starting salaries being offered to new grads are down 2 percent from last year.
Hofstra's fair was a microcosm of the national scene: a few more employers than last year, some with one or two full-time openings, many offering summer internships, only some of which are paying. Others merely collected resumes.
"Many students are complacent because they hear so much bad news - they feel, 'Why bother?' " said Fred Burke, executive director of Hofstra's career center.
Still, Long Island's employers and job-seekers say the market for new graduates is sluggish, for the second year in a row.
"We're getting a lot of experienced people applying for junior positions," said Lisa Chung, a senior recruiter with Canon, in Lake Success, at her table at Hofstra's job fair. "People with 20-25 years' experience are going for jobs requiring one to three years' experience."
Many seniors who want full-time jobs that pay salaries said they will compromise and take sales jobs based on commissions, or perhaps summer internships. Sagar Desai, 22, an information technology major, said he already had one internship and would consider another. "I was expecting a lot more entry-level jobs," he added.
Burke said he's noticed a slight uptick in job offers. He noted that 89 companies came to last year's job fair and 99 this year, though it's still a long way from 2008, when 150 companies showed up.
A Hofstra survey found that 77 percent of students in the class of 2009 found employment within six months of graduation, he added.
Wednesday, seniors lined up to talk to Aeropostale about retailing gigs, the Peace Corps about volunteer opportunities and Enterprise car rental company about customer-service jobs that pay $33,000 to $35,000.
Alumni showed up, too. Tim Hendrickson, 29, of Wantagh, graduated in 2003 with a bachelor's degree in history and served two deployments in Iraq with the Army. Last year, he lost a job when a private security investigations company downsized. "My wife and I are not so desperate that I would go back to war," he said. "Not just yet."