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THE ISSUE: College graduates and jobs; OUR OPINION: Locally and beyond, times are better, but ...

The recent Industry Appreciation Week observance highlighted South Carolina’s success in creating new manufacturing jobs. Many people completing college educations in May are interested in knowing how this economic success will impact them and what can be expected in fields beyond “making things.”

An annual survey by the University of South Carolina seeks to answer questions. The news this year is better than it has been: While employers remain cautious about the economy, USC May graduates are finding a steadily improving job market in the state and beyond.

The USC Career Center reports seeing continued strength in technology, engineering, accounting, computer science, finance, management and health care hiring this spring, along with signs of improvement in human resources and marketing positions.

“The job market remains very competitive for new graduates, but it’s not as dire as previous years,” said Tom Halasz, director of the Career Center. “For those students who have work experience and who have flexibility, there will be opportunities.”

Full-time job postings at USC’s Career Center are up 67 percent over 2011, while internship postings are up 18 percent and co-op jobs are up 33 percent, Halasz said. Another indication of an improving job market was the 15 percent increase in employers attending the spring career fairs.

“Whether we are looking at opportunities for full-time work or for internships and co-ops, we are seeing those opportunities grow. That’s because of a recovering job market and because of the continued efforts of the career center staff to build relationships with employers,” he said.

The trend in hiring is looking up nationally, too. Employers expect to hire 10.2 percent more new college graduates from the college class of 2012 than they did from the class of 2011, according to a study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Halasz said the market is strong in retail and global supply chain management. Also he said the increase in demand for human resources jobs is a good sign, pointing to a ramping up of hiring in jobs across a wide spectrum.

“Public relations jobs go hand-in-hand with HR jobs,” Halasz said. “We’re seeing businesses have something to promote. That’s good news for marketing and PR positions.”

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In today’s economy, those seeking work will take the good news where they can find it, hoping such optimism of out USC translates into personal realities.

One more piece of good news, however, will give many graduates reason to wonder about reality.

The median salary reportedly is up 4.5 percent over the median posted by the class of 2011. A National Association of Colleges and Employers’ April 2012 Salary Survey report shows the overall median starting salary for a bachelor’s degree graduate has risen to $42,569 for the class of 2012 from the final median salary of $40,735 for the class of 2011.

Clearly in South Carolina, we have compensation mountains yet to climb. The average manufacturing job in Orangeburg County pays $30,000 a year.

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