College graduates are entering a booming job market with national data showing employers are dramatically increasing recruitment. Many seniors accept job offers months before graduation.
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Very well. Are you about to graduate from university and looking for a job? In fact, great timing. Growing competition for graduates allows for earlier job offers, higher starting salaries, and more control during the hiring process. Rich Kremer of Wisconsin Public Radio reports.
RICH KREMER, BYLINE: The final months before college graduation can be a time of anxious job searches and outgoing resume streams. That’s not the case for Nissy Obasi, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. The computer science and economics double major accepted an offer in August to become an investment analyst at Deutsche Bank in New York.
NISSY OBASI: I was lucky enough to really enjoy my senior year without having that on my back.
KREMER: His advice to other students who may still be looking – don’t be afraid to counter an offer because you might have the upper hand.
OBASI: I feel like I have negotiation skills, few people have them. So if you receive an offer of 100,000, you accept it. You can take it to 120,000 and maybe throw something on it. You can just bargain.
KREMER: A spring survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers shows that companies plan to increase hiring of college graduates by more than 30% this year. That’s the biggest year-over-year increase in at least a decade.
JOSHUA KAHN: It’s an even hotter time for recruiters than they thought in the fall.
KREMER: Josh Kahn is deputy director of research for the group. He says recruiters are acutely aware of the growing competition for college graduates. Their average starting salary is expected to exceed $50,000.
KAHN: They know they have to make good offers. They know they have to raise salaries and benefits to make attractive offers, competitive offers.
KREMER: Taylor Schmidtfranz is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, who landed a teaching job in April just a day after her first interview.
TAYLOR SCHMIDTFRANZ: February and March, I was kind of freaked out because I was like, what am I doing with my life? Like, where am I going to live and all that? But it feels really good. I feel ready to graduate now.
KREMER: Even for seniors like Hannah Leah (ph) of UW Eau Claire, graduating without a job offer isn’t that scary.
HANNAH LEAH: It’s a really big job market right now, so I’m not really too worried, especially because there’s, like, a shortage of teachers and they’re paying people to go back to school to become teachers because they need it so badly.
KREMER: The national unemployment rate for those with at least a four-year degree was 2% in March. The unemployment rate for high school graduates was double. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York last year reported a record $22,000 pay gap between bachelor’s degree holders and those without.
JIM KWAPICK: With a college degree, your ability to be employed is greatly enhanced.
KREMER: This is Jim Kwapick, district manager for international talent recruiting firm Robert Half.
KWAPICK: Many employers get ahead of graduates and lock students in long before they graduate, unlike anything that has ever happened.
KREMER: But college enrollment has plummeted since 2020. Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute says the pandemic has added new hurdles for many prospective minority and low-income students who might not have not being able to pay tuition fees.
ELISE GOULD: It’s just not accessible to a lot of people across the country.
KREMER: As the race to recruit students heats up, those watching the trends expect things to cool down, though they don’t know how or when. In the meantime, those nearing graduation seem to be taking the lead in today’s hiring economy, and they know it.
For NPR News, I’m Rich Kremer in Eau Claire.
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