Job Market Looks Good for Spring College Graduates

The class of 2016 is likely to enjoy the best job market for new college graduates in 10 years — both nationally and in Idaho.

U.S. employers say they plan to hire 11 percent more college graduates this spring than last, according to a late October survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. About 42 percent of survey respondents characterized the job market for class of 2016 as “very good” or “excellent.” Two years ago, only 18 percent did. A Michigan State University survey of employers around the same time projected a 15 percent increase in hiring for college graduates.

With Idaho’s economy growing faster than the nation’s, the state’s college graduates are likely to find an even more welcoming labor market.

The stronger market will help them find well-paying jobs more easily, but is also likely to affect the critical first 10 years of their careers, which is when the majority of lifetime earnings growth occurs.

This group of millennials are likely to face favorable circumstances compared with the millennials who graduated in the 2009 through 2012 period, when young college graduates experienced the worst job market since the Depression. Many experienced unemployment and underemployment, which depressed lifetime earning growth. Entry wages were depressed and pay raises more infrequent.

Changes in the national job market for recent college graduates can be seen by looking at the unemployment rates and underemployment rates for recent college graduates in Figure 1. Recent college graduates are individuals ages 22 to 27 with a bachelor’s or higher degree, excluding those currently enrolled in schools.

KT-figure-1Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

KT-figure-2Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Quarterly Workforce Indicators

In Idaho, the number of new hires 25 years and older with Bachelor’s or advanced degrees grew 22.9 percent, from 10,756 in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 13,223 in the fourth quarter of 2014. The increase for college graduates under 25 years old is not available from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Quarterly Workforce Indicators. It’s reasonable to assume that their numbers grew faster than new hires for older college graduates.

College graduates typically earn considerably more than other workers. The Quarterly Workforce Indicators show that in 2014 the average pay for Idaho high school graduates with no further education was $30,648, while those with bachelor’s or advanced degrees earned $52,647. The average pay for new hires in 2014 who were 25 years and older with bachelor’s or higher degrees in Idaho was $35,856. College graduates will likely earn higher pay fresh on the job than workers of all experience levels with no more than a high school diploma.

Graduates with engineering and computer science majors continue to be in the highest demand. Over the past few years, the demand for business majors — particularly accountant, management, finance, economics and logistics — has risen. Sixty-nine percent of employers in the NACE survey anticipate hiring graduates from the business disciplines, while 67 percent plan to hire engineering graduates and 58 percent expect to hire computer and information sciences graduates.

Articles and tips for finding a job, whether after graduation or any time, can be found on this blog under “Job Seekers” and “Students” tabs., regional economist
(208) 799-5000 ext. 3984