The nation's economy is expanding, and most baby boomers are already employed. That's good news for this year's June grads, because there will be more jobs and less competition.

"After a two or three year slowdown, the market for college graduates looks strong, with large corporations opening up to fresh talent," said David Hamrick, national director for Hay Career Consultants, a corporate recruiting company in Philadelphia.This trend asserted itself last year, when the nation's employment level was at its highest since 1974. Experts expect this trend to continue as corporations plan for expansion both here and abroad.

Liberal arts majors, your turn is coming. "The pendulum is swinging back to liberal arts majors," said Marcia Harris, director of career planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Employers are finally recognizing the value of a good standard education."

"There are many companies who want liberal arts majors, because they have had a flexible education and have been taught to think," said Alfred Candrilli, one of the nation's leading compensation experts with Laventhol & Horwath.

A good grounding in logic, math, current events, classics, and, yes, the English language are valuable assets if you want to get ahead.

"Anyone who can articulate an idea, especially in writing, often is thought to be more intelligent and competent than someone who can't," Candrilli said.

And for the technically inclined, a host of industries are expanding by leaps and bounds, such as engineering, telecommunications, environmental sciences, health care, hospitality, and marketing and sales.

"Engineering is still a strong contender this year for job opportunities, especially in electrical and chemical engineering," said Steve Friedlander, president for the Chicago office of Roth Young Personnel Services.

The findings of Northwestern University's 43rd annual Lindquist-Endicott Report concurred. Salaries for engineers start around $31,000 and increase relative to experience. However, it should be noted that a large majority of college grads enter the real world without jobs, and therefore are not calculated in the "average starting salary."

The hospitality industry is another growth area. "We have opportunities for management training and supervisory positions at our restaurants, and we are very thorough in choosing the right candidate," said Loret Carbone, vice-president of Human Resources for the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant corporation, which has operations in five U.S. cities and Japan.

"While we like people with restaurant training, we are more interested in emotional maturity and intelligence," said Carbone. "If they are bright, stable and motivated, we can train them."

The optimistic statistics on employment surprisingly have had little impact on wage increases. However, the strong rate of employment has affected particular sectors of the job market where certain skills are in short supply.

Jim Bright, president of the Los Angeles office of Roth Young, finds great opportunities in the health care industry. "Hospitals can't find enough people to fulfill their needs."

"The health care industry is increasing its salaries to attract and retain employees," said Roberta Bore, a health care coordinator for Roth Young. "Middle-management nursing positions may offer between $30,000 to $45,000. Starting salaries are around $25,000."

The Lindquist-Endicott Report's findings show marketing and sales are also hot areas. According to the report, 33 percent of companies experience difficulty filling positions in these fields.

Environmental science is more than a hot parlor topic. "Because of EPA clean-ups, consulting people who specialize in waste management are doing well," said Hamrick.

Projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for the next decade indicate that the number of college graduates entering the job market will closely balance the available number of job openings.

Recruiters on university campuses come from every niche of the job market, representing both multi-national firms and local companies. At the University of California, Berkeley, Recruiting Coordinator Nancy McFarlan listed a host of companies that will be on campus this year, including IBM, Honeywell and AT&T. If you are graduating soon, it's a good idea to ask your career planning and placement office for assistance.

Reader questions will be answered and may appear in this column, when mailed to Gary S. Meyers at 20 West Hubbard St., Chicago, IL 60610.