Any sentient human being couldn’t be surprised that the employment picture for U.S. college journalism and mass communications graduates looking for full-time jobs is bleak. Given the overall economy, and given in particular the journalism economy, the real news would be if that weren’t the case.

But it is, as documented by the most recent annual survey done by the Cox Center at the University of Georgia’s Grady College. Of 2,400 recent graduates, only three-in-five, 60.4 percent, had landed full-time positions within about 18 months of graduating. The comparable figure a year earlier was just over 70 percent, and this year’s tally is the lowest in the 23 years the survey has been done.

Sagging employment, fewer permanent jobs, lower salaries, and diminished benefits help complete the grim picture. Job satisfaction – surprise, surprise – also has hit the skids. “Disastrous” is the term the report uses in describing the job market facing communications and journalism graduates. And it didn’t give much encouragement, either, in terms of online jobs, saying the numbers for those writing and editing on the Web also are down from a year earlier.

One figure that had not gone down, but rather remained steady with both 2007 and 2006 figures: median starting salaries of $30,000 for bachelor degree grads. For those with a masters, the $38,000 figure for 2008 is off $2,000 from the $40,000 for the previous year. Given the deflation – here comes the good news amidst the wreckage – the bachelors degree graduates actually appear a bit better off than their year-earlier counterparts.

Let the celebrations begin?