Members of the Class of 2012 in Arizona are seeing a much better employment picture than their predecessors going back several years, university campus career service specialists say.

Additionally, Arizona's economy and the job growth outlook are presenting positive scenarios for college graduates going forward, says the woman who analyzes economic data for state government.

"My thinking is that although there will be competition because of the high unemployed in this particular category, certainly the opportunities are better than what we saw the previous two years," said Aruna Murthy, director of economic analysis in the Arizona Office of Employment and Population Statistics.

Murthy said in an interview for Friday's Arizona Week that her office is forecasting 2 percent job growth this year and 2.3 percent next year in Arizona.

"With that type of growth, we anticipate it will be distributed across different types of needs and education as well," she said.

The career center directors at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University said their experiences with campus recruitment and job placement for graduates bear out Murthy's outlook and run ahead of the national outlook.

ASU's Elaine Stover said a survey of the school's most recent graduates showed 84 percent have found jobs. UA's Eileen McGarry said job offers to this year's graduates are running 30 percent higher than last year and 300 percent higher than in 2010.

"Last year, I think I used the term cautiously optimistic, and what I would say for this year is strategically optimistic," Stover told Arizona Week. "What that basically means is employers are willing to recruit for the openings they anticipate having instead of maybe under-recrutiing, not sure that they would actually be able to make all the hires that their managers say they need."

McGarry said this year "is looking a lot more optimistic than it has in the past, in a number of indicators that are helpful as we look out." At the same time, she said, the job market remains tight.

"Even though we're seeing trends improving, the market is very competitive still, and students really need to be prepared, gaining experience prior to graduation to be competitive," McGarry said. "And they do need to be more flexible both geographically as well as with the types of companies they might look to hire them."

McGarry and Stover said they put emphasis on their graduates finding jobs in the state and staying. Stover said more than half of ASU's grads, according to her office's survey, find their first jobs in the state.

McGarry said her office's emphasis on in-state jobs is signified by a career mixer scheduled for June 5 in Phoenix for graduates of all three state universities to meet representatives of companies that are hiring in the state. For information on the mixer, go to www.career.arizona.edu.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported in its spring 2012 survey that employers expect to hire 10.2 percent more new college graduates this year than last. That compares with the 9.5 percent increase in new graduate hires they anticipated when the school year began last September, another indicator of ongoing improvement.