College career directors are reporting record numbers of recruiters on campus. Job offers are up, and companies are saying they'll bring on nearly 20 percent more new graduates than they did last year.

This is a banner year for college hiring.

"We don't have enough students to fill the positions," said Patricia N.S. Peterson, director of career services at the University of the Sciences in West Philadelphia.

In March, Philadelphia University hosted its Design Expo - a job fair for design majors. Sixty-nine employers attended, up from 54 last year. "Now they are coming in April to do on-campus interviews. We didn't have that before," said Patricia "Trish" Shafer, director of career services.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers said its employer members intend to hire 19.2 percent more graduates this year than they did in 2006.

Five years ago, in 2002, the fallout from the Sept. 11 attacks, the bursting of the dot-com bubble, and the recession sent the numbers the other way, with firms planning to hire 20 percent less, said Andrea Koncz, employment information manager for the Bethlehem-based group.

This year, "most of them said the economy is doing better and their companies are growing and they have a lot more positions open for new college graduates," she said.

Comcast Corp., for example, is strengthening its relationships with colleges here and in Colorado to staff a growing number of engineering and technical positions, spokeswoman Jenni Moyer said.

"Our hiring is definitely up," said Megan Charlton, campus recruiter for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Philadelphia. In 2006, the accounting firm hired 175 local graduates. This year it will bring on 200, mostly business students in accounting, finance and information systems.

"The students I've met have been really motivated and they know what their long-term goals are," she said.

They are also used to selling themselves, said Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting From College to Career, published April 10 by Harper-Collins.

"This group of students - it was so challenging for them to get into college because they are part of the baby boomlet," she said. "I see them as applying the same strategies they used to get into college to getting a job. They seem savvier about the need to market themselves and get started earlier."

May's graduates are entering the job market at a time when the unemployment rate is a low 4.4 percent, meaning there is more competition for skilled workers.

And they are also looking for jobs just as companies are beginning to plan for the retirement of baby boomers, even though the anticipated labor shortage has not yet hit, Koncz said.

"They want to build from the bottom up," she said. "Train and retain, that's what I've heard."

Last fall, in response to the pending shortage, the University of Pennsylvania organized its first job fair just for government positions, which will be particularly hard hit.

"The federal workers still get pensions, so they are ready to go," said Patricia Rose, Penn's director of career services. "Some of them can go out into the world and get another job."

Rose said that in 2006, 85 percent of the graduates who entered the work force (as opposed to entering graduate school), had accepted offers by May. Most of them had locked in positions by Jan. 1, following internships. "I'm sure the numbers will go up this year."

At this time last year, Temple University's Fox Business School graduates told counselors about 119 job offers. This year, the number just topped 200. Senior Mariam Adeyemo has an informal offer from the Philadelphia controller's office. "It's looking good right now," she said on Thursday, just back from her interview.

That same day, seniors were among the students in Temple's required professional development class, which teaches resume writing, interviewing skills - and table manners, in case the job interview also includes a meal.

"As far as using cell phones during the meal, well, is anyone that gauche? Your cell phone is not a dog whistle. Who's controlling whom?" lectured instructor Janis Campbell. Her students were graded on whether they were wearing business casual attire.

Standing outside the doorway, senior Clay Stewart, a finance manager from Clover, S.C., smiled. He said he had taken the class last year and it helped him land a job at SEI Investment Co. in Oaks.

"I got the job in November," he said. He'll be earning nearly $50,000. "They gave me a signing bonus and told me to go travel." He starts July 31.

Stewart's resume includes his position as the president of Temple's student Financial Management Association, his athletic record as a top-flight gymnast, and last summer's stint as a fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee.

"I wanted to spend my summer doing something that I would never be able to do later," said Stewart, who has had some business internships. "I'll be in corporate America for the rest of my life."

Stewart met his contact from SEI in his official capacity as the association president. But, in his job interviews, it was his work in gymnastics and politics that drew the most discussion.

"In general," he said, "employers look for people who are passionate. I'm going to be mayor of Philadelphia one day."

Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or jvonbergen@phillynews.com.