Job Prospects Looking Up for This Year’s College Grads

Though last spring’s labor market for college graduates was hot, the Class of 2017 will likely find the best job market in 10 years when they graduate this spring. Surveys suggest that employers are ramping up their recruitment efforts for this year. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Dec. 18 that college graduates are entering the strongest job market the country has seen in nearly a decade. New grads also are expected to find more job openings here in Idaho. Placement offices at Idaho universities report more employers are showing interest in their students graduating this spring.

Michigan State University’s Recruiting Trends, released in September, projected hiring should be very strong for the Class of 2017. Company growth and employee turnover are expected to increase hiring of newly minted bachelor’s degree holders by 19 percent, according to 4,350 employers of all sizes across industries and in all states. Sectors experiencing heavy growth include hospitality and food services; arts and entertainment; finance; real estate and leasing; transportation; and retail and wholesale trade.


The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Job Outlook survey, released in December, shows employers expect to hire 5.8 percent more graduates this year than last year for U.S. operations. More than one-third of employers responding to the survey rated the job market as “very good” or “excellent.” Fewer than 10 percent rated the job market as “fair.”

More than 70 percent of employers responding to the NACE survey say they screen students by GPA (grade point average), with 3.0 being the popular cut-off. Other attributes employers look for are ability to work as part of a team (78 percent), problem-solving skills (77.3 percent) and written communication skills (75 percent). Leadership skills (68.9 percent) — last year’s top attribute — fell to sixth position.

About 64.5 percent of respondents prefer candidates with relevant work experience. Of those, 56 percent prefer experience from an internship/co-op while 44 percent had no preference in how work experience was gained.

Michigan State University reported that half of employers are increasing their starting salaries this year to attract talented graduates. That’s the largest percentage of employers increasing salary offers since 2007. Starting salaries are expected to increase from 4 to 5 percent. The largest increases are expected to be for computer science and engineering graduates.

By graduating from colleges, students substantially reduce risk of unemployment and increase their pay. The unemployment rate of recent college graduates is less than half the rate for all young workers, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s January report on the labor market for recent college graduates. The unemployment rate and underemployment rate of recent college graduates, which it defines as graduates between ages 22 and 27, is significantly below that of non-graduates and their wages are sharply higher. The unemployment rate for recent college graduates in September – the latest available data – was 4 percent, the lowest rate since October 2008. The unemployment rate for all young workers was 8.8 percent. The following graph shows the unemployment and underemployment rates of people ages 22 to 27 with bachelor’s or higher degrees, excluding those currently enrolled in school.

unemploy_rates_gradsUnemployment rates and underemployment rates vary considerably by major as the following table shows.

laboroutcomes_2In Idaho, strong economic growth in the past few years have created considerable opportunities for college graduates. In 2015, Idaho employers hired 13,572 people with bachelor’s degrees or higher, up 28.6 percent from 10,556 hired in 2010, the lowest year in the recession. This year, new hires of college grads is likely to be back to its peak levels reached 11 years, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 799-5000 ext. 3984