your research into your target career is laudable. As for your question, recruitment of new graduates by the major consultancies is indeed likely to be down on this years milkround.
The consultancy market has undoubtedly suffered a downturn recently and this has had the knock-on impacts that you've noted, namely lay-offs. There has also been a less well reported knock-on in reduced recruiting levels.
There are other more subtle impacts that you will also have to think about in the short term. In a downturn situation clients tend to buy smaller projects, that require fewer staff. These in turn provide less stretching opportunities for new entrants to the profession with the result that your career path in the early days may not be as rapid as you'd like.
So my advice to you would be to question any consultancy you are considering very closely about its own particular circumstances and the opportunities (project based or otherwise) that it will be able to furnish you with.
Personally I think that the shake-out will continue in the industry at least until the end of the year, but that conditions should start improving from that point onward.
Good luck with the job hunting!