Graduate school applications generally spike during a recession, as laid-off workers decide to update their skills or seek a specialization in preparation for a new career. But some top-tier business schools have noticed a return to normal applicant levels this year, a sign that anxiety might be lessening -- at least in some fields. "There is a general consensus that even though the economy might not be picking up as fast as people would like, the hemorrhaging of jobs -- particularly in financial services -- has stopped for the moment," said Peter Johnson, executive director for admissions for the MBA program at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

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