Black and Hispanic graduates

The job market for college graduates remains strong but uncertainties persist

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) monthly jobs report provides a broad look at the current state of the labor market. It is comprised of two surveys, a household survey sent to people that gauges their labor market experiences of employment and unemployment and an establishment survey sent to businesses to measure their hiring levels, hours and wages.

In this edition of our Race, Jobs and the Economy series we analyze the labor market overall with a focus on college graduates.

Analysis of Topline Figures in the March BLS Report

The economy added 303,000 jobs in March according to the BLS, smashing the consensus of 213,000. The unemployment rate declined 0.1 percentage points to 3.8%, continuing a year-long trend of low unemployment.

Jobs & Sectoral Trends

The industries with the largest employment gains were: healthcare (+72,000), government (+72,000), construction (+39,000) and leisure and hospitality (+49,000). Active readers of our series will know that the last group, leisure and hospitality, trailed other industries in the post-pandemic recovery. However, the BLS notes that the industry finally returned to its pre-pandemic level in March.

The March BLS report had the unemployment rate at 3.4% for White workers, 6.4% for Black workers, 2.5% for Asian workers and 4.5% for Hispanic workers. Contrary to the declines experienced by other groups, the unemployment rate for Black workers increased by 0.8 percentage points, due largely to a 1.2% increase in unemployment of Black women. We noted a similar increase for Black men in December which reversed itself soon after.

The Labor Market and Recent College Graduates

Despite the rather impressive March jobs figures, some recent graduates have experienced difficulties entering the labor market. In a now-viral TikTok video, a recent graduate with dual degrees and the ability to speak three languages broke down in tears explaining her failed attempts to secure even a minimum-wage job. The video highlights the mismatch between the expectations of recent college graduates and job market realities.

Recent college graduates, who graduated between January and October 2022, had an unemployment rate of 7.3% in October 2022. While men and women had similar employment rates, men had twice the unemployment rate. This could be because 3 times as many women are not in the labor force, and while BLS doesn’t collect information specifically on why, our last BLS article might hint at some of the reasons including family care and unpaid childcare.

Black recent college graduates had an 8.7% unemployment rate and an 83.6% employment rate as compared to 5.5% and 81.1% respectively for White recent college graduates. Hispanic recent graduates had a 9.1% unemployment rate and a 77.9% employment rate.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveys graduates six months following their graduation on their career outcomes. Possible positive outcomes include graduates who were employed in some capacity, became entrepreneurs, performed military service, and continued or were seeking to continue their education.

Their report on the class of 2022 found that positive job outcomes for graduates had returned to pre-pandemic levels. A fourth of graduates had received a bonus from their employer. However, men were more likely to receive one (32%) versus women (24%). In addition to being less likely to receive a bonus, women received about $3,200 less than men.

Black and Hispanic graduates had slightly lower career outcome rates, employment rates and around 3% lower starting salaries compared to White graduates. Native Americans had substantially worse outcomes than all groups. One will note that the gap in non-White starting wages compared to Whites is much smaller than the overall gap even between younger workers.

NACE also surveys employers on their hiring intentions regarding new college graduates. The most recent job outlook survey found that the number of graduates from the class of 2024 projected to be hired this year declined by 1.9%. This is a stunning reversal from the previous two years, where growth was 31.6% in the Spring of 2022. Even worse, six times as many employers expected to decrease their hiring of new graduates in 2024 compared to 2022.

While three-quarters of employers still rate the job market for new graduates as good, very good or excellent, some new college graduates say otherwise. Only 20% of those between 18 and 29 believe economic conditions are ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. The job outlook data certainly will not assuage the anxieties of this spring’s graduates even while the overall economy remains robust. Nevertheless, housing affordability and a thriving economy remain top priorities for young people and for NCRC.

Featured image: ©aamulya – stock.adobe.com

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