College graduates in 2018 are entering the strongest job market in over a decade.
They have watched the unemployment rate decline from staggering highs during the recession to its current historic 18-year low of 3.9%. April of 2018 marked the 91st consecutive month of job growth and the median household income is the highest it’s been in inflation-adjusted dollars since January 2000.
It seems this year’s graduating class is poised to board the train of a booming economy and jump the fast track to a great career. But the employment picture is not quite as rosy as it seems, even for those with a four-year degree. While unemployment is low, wage growth has remained stagnant, and about one in three college graduates are underemployed, according to the New York Federal Reserve.
From a top-down view, the job market is booming. But record-low unemployment isn’t necessarily on the side of college-educated job seekers. The quit rate, which represents the share of employed people voluntarily quitting to find a better job, has reached pre-recession levels. Thus despite low unemployment, competition for high-skill positions is still fierce.
This means college graduates in 2018 should be aware of these three labor market trends when looking for a job.
High Marks for Mobility
It’s no longer the case that great careers only begin in the big city.
Recent studies using ZipRecruiter data have shown that flexibility in location can increase an applicant’s chances of finding a quality job. Plus, working in a smaller city can equal a much lower cost of living.
New grads hoping to work in tech, for example, may want to consider looking outside of Silicon Valley. A 2017 ZipRecruiter study found Huntsville, AL to be the fastest-growing tech town in the U.S. With an early-career median pay of nearly $60,000 and a median rent of under $1,000 (one third the rent of cities like San Francisco and Seattle), burgeoning tech hubs across the South and Midwest are excellent incubators for growing a career in high tech.
It Doesn’t Hurt to Think Small
New college grads may feel pressured to snag a job at a marquee company, but we know that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) create better jobs. We recently looked at millions of ZipRecruiter job postings and found that SMBs disproportionately offer jobs with higher paying titles, especially in media sales, public relations, and marketing.
Plus, landing a job at an early-stage startup can be a great way to gain experience in a variety of roles. These jobs are less likely to be confined to one skill set, thus providing the opportunity to develop new skills and cultivate undiscovered talents.
Industries to Watch
Healthcare is perhaps the hottest industry for new professionals to watch. Due to our aging population, healthcare recently surpassed both manufacturing and retail as the largest employer in the U.S. In the first two months of this year, healthcare was the most searched job industry on ZipRecruiter.com.
Another corner of the job market that will offer great opportunities is green industries. The imminent addressing of climate change will undoubtedly lead to a boom in green jobs over the coming years. Many of these jobs will be in manufacturing, architecture, and civil engineering to mitigate the toll climate change has already taken on our infrastructure. As we look to the future, we’ll also see rapid job growth in clean energy and renewables. In 2016, solar employment alone grew 17 times faster than the U.S. economy, according to a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency.
The good news about these booming industries for recent college grads is that they provide ample opportunity for skill crossovers. In other words, you don’t have to be a physician to work in healthcare or an electrical engineer to work in renewable energy. Firms in these fields need talent from across the spectrum, including those with degrees in business and the social sciences.
We’ve entered a brave new world in today’s labor market. Artificial intelligence (AI), the advance of automation, and a volatile political landscape are all contributing to uncertainty for workers entering the modern labor force. But despite the challenges that lie ahead, the data shows that opportunity abounds for this year’s graduating class.