"The market has been in a downturn for many companies," said Equilla Wainwright, corporate director of diversity work force at Johnson Controls Inc. "That was painfully clear to us at one job fair last year when GM, Ford, and even IBM said they were there to show support, but they wouldn't be interviewing."
Other employers said they're hiring early this year.
"We anticipate an increased need this year," said Maria Degilio, who ran a booth for Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. at the University of Maryland's Feb. 11th job fair. "As a result we need to start early [looking for employees], because if we wait too long, they'll already have jobs. You have to catch them right as they're starting their career hunt."
Computer science major Dmitriy May, a 21-year-old Towson University senior from Canton, Conn., is searching for work in the computer industry.
"I've looked a lot, and the percentage of finding something has been very small," May said, who currently works at an internship doing database work but expects to find a permanent job. "I've had 20 or so interviews, and a couple more coming up this semester."
Challenger suggests that the nation's college seniors keep networking.
"It's very possible that we're into a [growth] period," he said. "We've been through three years of lackluster economy, so I do think we're in a period and we're going to see better productivity.
"Companies seem to be back on track," Challenger said. "Instead of just cutting costs, they're looking at new product development and investing in capital equipment."