The jobs outlook for college graduates has improved dramatically in the more than two years since COVID-19 nearly shut down the economy across the nation.

In New York, hiring is up, unemployment is down and businesses plan to boost college graduate recruitment, according to career service professionals and state labor tracking.

Scott Leggio, a senior at Siena College, has two reasons to celebrate this spring. Not only will he graduate with a bachelor’s degree on Sunday — he’s already landed a job, too.

“Just this past week on Friday, I accepted a job as a legal assistant,” the graduating senior said.

Leggio is not alone.

According to college career service professionals at Siena and elsewhere across the state, it’s a job-seeker’s market.

“We’re finding that many have full-time jobs already secured, and have for quite some time,” said Alicia Pepe, assistant vice president for experiential learning and career development at Siena College. “In fact, one of the biggest struggles, which is a great problem to have, is they’ve had multiple offers. So, they’re trying to really decide between the best job offers.”

While COVID-19 hurt many industries and created hesitancy among hiring, a spring survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found more than 30% of businesses plan to boost college graduate recruitment this year, the sharpest year-to-year increase in at least a decade.

Recruitment is how Leggio landed his first post-college gig.

The process was swift.

“I applied Monday, application went through, we interviewed Tuesday,” he said. “I got the offer Wednesday morning. Friday morning, I said, ‘I accept your offer,’ and that’s kind of how it went.”

Pepe is seeing a hiring demand in jobs like data analysis, business analytics, accounting and finance.

“The employers that I’m working with are interested in hiring,” Pepe said. “They have many positions in a variety of industries.”

Sharon Edwards-Grant, interim associate director of career services at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, recently helped organize two job fairs attended by dozens of employers. The event connected students to interviews, internships and offers.

“There’s numerous different options,” Edwards-Grant said. “We’re noticing key roles right now are in computer science, cybersecurity, financial markets, and the health services industry are just booming. Educators right now are also in high demand, with folks leaving and coming into the field.”

While the average starting salary for a bachelor’s degree graduate is around $55,000, computer science and cybersecurity jobs right now can start at above $60,000, Edwards-Grant said.

The national unemployment rate has dropped to 3.6%, while the unemployment rate for graduates with bachelor’s degrees ages 20 to 24 was 5.6% in April, down from 7.9% in April 2021, according to the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The state unemployment rate is 4.6%. There were 27,500 private sector jobs added in New York this March, according to the state Labor Department.

Some of the biggest job gains over the past year in the state were in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, trade, transportation and utilities.

For students who haven’t landed a job just yet, Pepe advises relying on personal connections.

“Whether that be a career center at your college, or your own personal network ... I know here at Siena, we have a fantastic alumni network who is really willing and able to support and advocate for current students,” Pepe said.

At St. Rose, Edwards-Grant said COVID-19 really hurt some students and industries, but optimism has returned as more people go back to classes and work.

“I think the economy continues to bounce back and fluctuate, but employers are optimistic,” she said. “Businesses and people still need services.”​