As the economy continues to slowly improve, so do the prospects for entry-level job candidates who are expected to benefit from companies’ need to rebuild “bench strength” after cutting millions of workers during the recession. However, while this year’s crop of 1.7 million college graduates should fare slightly better than last year’s, the job market will remain fiercely competitive, according to a new outlook from global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
The college graduates who are likely to have the most success are those with the flexibility to go wherever the jobs are and those seeking positions in the occupations expected to see the most growth over the next decade. Among the top fields are accounting and finance, engineering, computer science, sales and marketing, education, and health care and social services.
“Job creation has been stronger in some months than others, but the general trend has been upward. The private sector has seen positive employment gains for 25 consecutive months. The job market still has a long way to go before full recovery, but the good news is that young job seekers with four-year degrees are in growing demand,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Indeed, job gains have come in fits and starts. Last year, hiring was strong through early spring, only to drop off in the summer and fall. The private sector averaged 248,000 new payroll jobs from last December through February 2012, but then dropped to just 121,000 new jobs in March, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While the pace of hiring has been volatile throughout the recovery, every month since February 2010 has experienced positive job growth for a total of 4,051,000 new jobs.
Further analysis of BLS data reveals that 20- to 24-year-olds were among the biggest benefactors during the 25 months of consecutive job gains. While the BLS data does not break out employment by age and education level, the 20 to 24 age group is most likely to contain recent graduates. According to the data, the number of employed 20- to 24-year-olds increased by 939,000 from March 2010 through March 2012. The only group to experience larger employment gains was at the opposite end of the age spectrum; the number of workers 55 and older increased by 2,851,000 during the same period.
Age Group Net Employment Change, March 2010 – March 2012
20 – 24: 939,000
25 – 34: 528,000
35 – 44: 199,000
45 – 54: 258,000
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics