Business leaders are increasingly pessimistic about whether college students are being adequately prepared for careers, according to an annual survey.

Nearly nine out of 10 of 500 executives polled said graduates lack the necessary skills to succeed. And more than half said the United States is lagging behind its economic rivals in this measure.

Nor does the corporate class think universities and colleges are getting better at career preparation. Fewer than 30 percent said the situation will improve in the next 10 to 15 years.

The executives rank communication, interpersonal skills, and adaptability among the most important things they think graduates should know, according to the survey, commissioned by Northeastern University.