AIKEN - Holly Flowers stares at the job board in Aiken Technical College's career center, searching for an accounting position.
Colored index cards with jobs for welders, office assistants and nurses smother the bulletin board, but there is nothing that interests Ms. Flowers.
"It can be frustrating sometimes when I walk in here each week and there is nothing in accounting," said Ms. Flowers, 24, who is working at Aiken Tech and taking classes part-time. "You always worry about finding that job after school, and accounting jobs are hard to come by."
Ms. Flowers hasn't completed her associate's degree in accounting yet, but she needs a full-time job to help pay for school. Because she said she is not willing to relocate, fewer job options are available.
Her decision to not relocate is not unusual.
Officials at Aiken Tech and the University of South Carolina Aiken said about 70 percent of their graduates remain in Aiken. It usually takes a recent grad about four months to find a full-time position, said Corey Feraldi, the director of career services at USC-Aiken. But he said it could take longer for those who limit their search to Aiken.
"Jobs are tighter here, but some have family and want to stay," he said. "Nursing majors can show up at the door and get jobs, but for those in manufacturing, there are so many cuts and there just isn't a lot there."
South Carolina's unemployment figures for March rose to 6.7 percent from 6.3 percent in February, figures from the South Carolina Employment Security Commission show, while Aiken County's dropped to 5.1 percent from 5.7 percent in the same period.
Those graduating from Aiken Tech and USC Aiken tonight, however, should have a slightly easier time finding jobs than students who received degrees in recent years.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, companies nationwide will hire about 11 percent more new graduates this year compared with last year.
Although more jobs are available, they might be harder to find, said Katherine Fowler, the director of placement services at Aiken Tech. She said more employers are using temp services, which helps graduates get their foot in the door but doesn't provide them with a long-term solution.
Fewer companies are advertising open positions because it costs too much and they receive too many rsums, Mr. Feraldi said.
"There is a big hidden job market out there that not many people know about," he said. "There are plenty of jobs that aren't advertised that are filled through networking and connections.
Shareffa Miles, 20, said she knows the job market will be rough when she graduates from Aiken Tech.
"I hear people not being able to find a job, and I know it's a struggle, but I'm willing to go through it," she said.
Reach Peter G. Gilchrist at (803) 648-1395. or firstname.lastname@example.org