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Columbia ranks as 5th-best city to start a career

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Columbia ranks fifth in the country in a recent survey rating more than 180 U.S. cities as best places for recent college graduates to start careers.

WalletHub compared the relative market strength and overall livability of the cities as part of an examination of 28 key metrics ranging from availability of entry-level jobs to monthly average starting salary to housing affordability. Columbia ranked fifth among professional opportunities and 31st in quality of life to net an overall score of 61.10 on a 100-point scale.

Salt Lake City, second in both professional opportunities and quality of life, led the nation with a score of 69.15. Charleston ranked sixth in the country with a score of 60.88, ranking ninth in professional opportunities and 14th in livability.

The survey included the 150 most-populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state.  

WalletHub cited U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing the unemployment rate for people ages 20-24 at 10.5% in April 2021. However, a recent National Association of Colleges and Employers survey found that employers plan to hire 7.2% more graduates from the class of 2021 than they did from the class of 2020.

Andy Chan, vice president of innovation and career development at Wake Forest University, said in the WalletHub survey that cities can help attract both industry and talent.

“City policymakers might consider offering incentives for high-growth employers to build offices and operations in their cities,” Chan said. “Investing in community-building services, resources, and programs that are attractive to young adults is important, and partnering with local colleges and universities to offer educational and networking opportunities offers a familiar setting to make friends.”

Chan also said that organizations must create diverse and inclusive work cultures and offer generous compensation, benefits and professional development opportunities to attract and retain talent.

Frank Allen, director of employer relations for the University of Richmond’s Office of Alumni and Career Services, said the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on hiring and recruiting have begun to stabilize, though those efforts may look different going forward.

“The impact was more about timing than demand,” Allen said. “At first, we saw employers implement hiring freezes and halt recruiting efforts. However, now that most organizations have figured out how to successfully operate in the virtual environment, and the economy continues to grow, employer demand has bounced back, albeit much later than normal. What remains to be seen is how long entry-level employees will remain with their employers, especially those organizations that fail to manage the challenges of a virtual environment.”

Reach Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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