OPINION: December graduates enjoy improving economy

Erick Murrer, opinion columnist for the College Heights Herald

Erick Murrer

Soon-to-be WKU December graduates might be particularly stressed these next two weeks as they prepare for the home stretch, but the improving state of the U.S. economy provides some relief and encouragement for graduates in pushing forward.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in October, making this the lowest unemployment rate since the year 2000. The unemployment rate for those over 25 with a bachelor’s degree also fell to 2 percent, constituting the lowest unemployment rate for college graduates since the Great Recession. In addition, the rate of individuals working part-time because they could not find full-time employment has now fallen back to pre-recession levels.

Goldman Sachs analyst Charles Himmelberg said that, “2017 is shaping up to be the first year of the expansion in which growth surprises to the upside,” predicting, “2018 to deliver more of the same.” Citing highly accommodative global monetary policy and easing financial conditions, Goldman Sachs forecasts 4 percent global economic growth. With respect to the U.S. economy, Goldman predicts that U.S. interest rate hikes and tax reform will contribute to a forecasted 2.5 percent growth.

Moreover, career coach Kim Dority notes the unique timing for winter hiring of December graduates, arguing that, “Because of the more relaxed productivity expectations of the holidays, it may be much easier to gain access to those key decision-makers and hiring managers who are still in the office during December.”

But WayUp, an online job platform for recent college graduates, cautions that although job opportunities during the New Year hiring cycle might be more plentiful, December graduates have not had as much time to lay a foundation for their job search meaning that the job secured after December graduation may not be the most desirable.

December graduates face less competition compared to spring graduates who inundate the job market in May. Some college career service centers also remind December graduates that, should securing immediate employment prove to be difficult, December graduates can instead pursue a spring internship, leading to possible full-time employment upon the internship’s completion.

Although 50 percent of Americans believe that there are “plenty of jobs available in their communities,” 49 percent of Americans still think that their wages have not kept up with the cost of living.

Conventional economic wisdom dictates that a market flush with jobs requires firms to pay higher wages in order to retain talent, but Federal Reserve leaders are at loss in understanding the “mystery” of slowing wages.

Nevertheless, starting pay for college graduates is the highest it has been in a decade – nearly 14 percent higher than the class of 2007. The highest paying fields include energy, STEM and data analytics.

So with December graduation just around the corner, it’s important that December graduates consider the hiring trends of their target industry. With increasing job availability for skilled workers and overall economic improvement, the December class of 2017 arguably enjoys a brighter outlook.