Good news at last for college graduates: an improved job outlook

Hiring of the next crop of college graduates will increase about 7 percent over the 2010-11 academic year, according to a new survey. But competition for jobs will still be fierce.

Hiring for college grads is poised to improve during the current academic year – a welcome piece of positive news for young Americans who have been among those most affected by a weak job market.

Hiring of new bachelor's degree holders will increase about 7 percent, compared with the 2010-11 academic year, according to a newly released survey of 4,200 job recruiters by the College Employment Research Institute.

"This year’s market ... shows a more consistent pattern of growth across industry sectors," concludes a summary from the institute, which is based at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

The report says that employer uncertainty "has lessened somewhat."

The new report says computer science majors are among those in strong demand, with not enough graduates to fill all positions. Grads with expertise in accounting, engineering, finance, and supply-chain management also enjoy strong prospects.

Demand from agriculture and food-processing employers is up strongly.

Other fields with improving opportunities include marketing, advertising, public relations, sales, nursing, clinical laboratory scientists, human resources, chemistry, statistics, and math.

"Even with this improved job outlook, the competition will be fierce," the report's summary cautions. Overall, "employer demand falls short of the supply of graduating students."

In this environment, the report says grads need to make the most of connections with people like alumni, parents, and hiring staff in organizations.

Starting salaries are expected to be little changed.

Economists also say the labor market outlook in coming months still carries uncertainty.

On the positive side, an index of so-called leading indicators, designed to forecast the pace of growth, rose solidly in a report released Friday by the Conference Board in New York. Yet some forecasters say global economy remains vulnerable, especially if European nations don't calm fears about their ability to cope with government debt burdens.

Young adults have confronted difficult challenges ever since the recession deepened in 2008. College costs have continued to rise, as has the financing of those costs through borrowing. But the job market has remained weak.

Still, economists say college remains an important path to prosperity for millions of Americans – providing the skills for significantly higher earnings over the span of a working career.

And in general, people with college degrees have a much lower unemployment rate than those without. Among workers over age 25, the jobless rate stands at 4.4 percent as of October for people with bachelor's degrees, compared with 9.6 percent for those with a high school diploma and 13.8 percent for those without.

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