FORTUNE — To all recent college grads still tending bar, there’s hope in today’s tough job market. At least according to a new survey that shows many companies are planning to hire new graduates in the coming year.
Three out of four companies plan to hire recent college grads, according to a report by EMC Research and commissioned by Academy of Art University in San Francisco, which surveyed 267 U.S. employers across a spectrum of industries from health care to finance. Of those surveyed, 23% plan to hire more than last year.
The findings suggest optimism for the class of 2011, following pretty bleak job prospects during the past two years. The annual unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds with college degrees in 2009 was 9.1% and 9.4% in 2010 – the highest recorded for this age group since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the data in 1985.
So what are employers looking for from the class of 2011? The EMC survey shows that computer proficiency ranked highest on their list of desired skills (84% of respondents), followed by analytical skills (79%) and writing ability (75%). Of those surveyed, 72% wanted experience using the newest technologies while 67% valued creative ability and 45% wanted employees with experience with interactive media.
But while the chances of landing a job might improve, it’s not exactly good news all around. It remains to be seen if the earnings prospects for the class of 2011 will get much better. In 2009 and 2010, the median starting salary for students graduating from four-year colleges was $27,000, down from $30,000 for grads entering the job market from 2006 to 2008, according to a study released this month by the John L. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.
And while potentially better jobs picture might be good news for the class of 2011, it could mean bad news for graduates of previous years still waiting tables or stuck at a temp job answering phones. Jobs might be opening up, but far too many 20-somethings with college degrees are still waiting in line for their big break.