Job prospects for graduating seniors look better according to numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor last week, Yale economics professors said Wednesday. But they said it is hard to predict at what pace the unemployment rate will decline and which sectors will benefit most from the improving market.

Reflecting a general perception that the economy is beginning to recover, last week the Department of Labor released numbers indicating that the national economy is producing jobs for the third straight month following a six-month slump.

“My prediction is that [the unemployment rate] will be down close to five percent by the end of 2004,” economics professor Ray Fair said. “I don’t know who’s going to benefit most from that.”

Fair said he expects the increase in employment to happen gradually. The current unemployment rate is six percent.

Another Yale economics professor, who wished to remain anonymous, said he also believes the unemployment rate will decline, but was less certain about the rate at which it will do so.

“The recovery is far from complete,” the professor said. “I think things do look somewhat better. What it means for the top end of the education group is less clear.”

Many Yale seniors who plan to work next year said they are still looking for jobs. They said seniors interested in consulting and investment banking seem to be having the most success so far.

Bola Olupona ’04 said she wants to work for a year before going to law school and has just begun her job search. Olupona said some of her friends have already secured jobs in finance for next year.

“Talking to them is the most depressing experience,” she said.

Nicole Lim ’04, who said she hopes to take a year off to go abroad next year, she said she also knows many seniors who are searching for employment. She said most of those who have found jobs will work in financial services next year.

“It’s mostly just financial services and consulting people who are finding jobs right now,” Lim said.

Lim said she believes seniors in this area have had the most success because investment firms hire consistent numbers of new employees each year, although the economic downturn may have caused them to give more than usual preference to economics and math majors, she said.

Some seniors said they were offered jobs after completing internships last summer, a common practice among investment banking firms.

Sharon Hwang ’04 said she was recently hired to work at an investment bank for two years, after which she hopes to attend law school.

Lim, who currently works at Yale Undergraduate Career Services, said graduate schools are unusually competitive this year because of the difficult job market.

“It’s going to take a while for [hiring increases] to trickle down,” Lim said. “It’s a good time to take a year off, actually.”

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