EDITORIAL: Good outlook: Graduates should encounter positive employment market

Many Rio Grande Valley college students have received their degrees in recent weeks, and high school seniors will be getting their diplomas in the next few weeks. We congratulate all graduates and their families for achieving a goal that was set more than a dozen years ago: acquiring an education and skills that will enable them to become independent, contributing members of their communities.

The class of 2021 deserves special praise, as they faced unprecedented challenges brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic that closed most campuses for more than a year. This left students without the personal interaction with instructors and classmates that helped many of them better understand course material and assignments. Still they succeeded, perhaps making the acquisition of the degree a bit sweeter than it might have been otherwise.

Fortunately, the trials of the past year provides a potential windfall for current graduates, who are leaving school as our nation is reopening from pandemic-related closures and businesses are expanding — and hiring. Analysts say 2021 offers one of the best job markets in several years. Average starting salaries also are expected to be higher than those that were offered in 2020.

Of course, some industries will be hiring more than others, and some degrees better qualify graduates for those jobs. But there’s a good chance that graduates will be able to find a source of income even while they’re still looking for the occupation that best matches their interests and education. Job placement experts say taking a job, even if it’s outside a person’s chosen field, strengthens a resume and is more attractive to potential employers than waiting for the perfect job to come along.

Clemson University’s Center for Career and Professional Development reports a steady rise in online job postings in all fields.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that even during the pandemic, some industries grew, such as pharmaceutical companies and wholesale trade — those that provided medications and kept filling our stores with toilet paper and other high-demand items.

Our nation’s unemployment rate already is falling. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a year ago the jobless rate was 14%, and has now fallen to 6.1%. Recent research by investment firm Goldman Sachs predicts that number will continue to fall to 4.1% by year’s end. Analysts say it could be even lower, depending on markets that rely on public confidence, such as the tourism, travel and hospitality industries. The BLS reports those industries lost 3.9 million jobs to the pandemic, and will be looking to refill them, especially with millions of homebound Americans expected to hit the road this summer if the threat of COVID-19 contagion continues to fall.

That means jobs in those and fields, such as marketing, should be plentiful.

The positive outlook should give new graduates more confidence that they will find opportunities to start their careers, and inspire them to take the steps, however challenging, to seek those opportunities.