May 9, 2024 - Economy

Where the class of 2024 wants to work

A bar chart showing the change in the share of new grads applying to jobs in select cities, 2023 to 2024. New York City saw the largest increase in applicant share, up 1.35 percentage points to a total of 9.1% in 2024. Other top gainers were Texas City, Salt Lake City, and Boise. The biggest loser was Atlanta, losing 0.46 percentage points.
Data: Handshake; Chart: Axios Visuals

More of this year's graduating college seniors are seeking the security of a government job, and fewer are applying to risky-seeming tech jobs, per Handshake, the campus recruitment website.

Why it matters: The class of 2024 — which Axios has dubbed "the bummer generation" because of how COVID-19 warped the seminal events of their young lives — just wants stability and a comfortable income, thank you.

Driving the news: Job security, work/life balance, and the ability to live near family and friends are the top considerations for the class of 2024, Handshake's opinion survey and job applications data show.

  • "76% of this class says that stability is the #1 factor they'll be considering," Christine Cruzvergara, Handshake's chief education strategy officer, tells Axios.

By the numbers: 7.4% of applications submitted on Handshake from this year's graduating class were for government roles, up from 5.5% last year.

  • 21% of applications were for tech jobs, down from 23% last year.

Yes, but: A lot of the young people seeking to work for Uncle Sam are targeting tech roles, Cruzvergara says.

  • "The government has increased a lot of their tech hires," she adds.
  • The IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services have been particularly popular among applicants.

Where they're going: New York City is the most popular destination for Class of 2024 applicants, attracting 9.1% of total applications — up from 8% last year.

  • Other cities seeing the biggest increases in the share of job applications were Washington, D.C.; Texas City, Texas; Salt Lake City and Boise.
  • Dallas, Seattle, Houston, Denver and Atlanta saw the biggest decreases.

Zoom in: After "stability," the top factor influencing this year's grads was location (cited by 75% of students polled by Handshake).

  • Following that were positive employer reputation (72%), high starting salary (71%), flexible schedule (61%) and hybrid work (46%).

What they're saying: This year's college seniors have "had to do a lot of adapting," Cruzvergara tells Axios.

  • "They've had to be nimble, adaptable and gritty. I'm not surprised they're looking for something a bit more stable."
  • In addition, "they have a higher bar of expectation around what work/life balance looks like."
  • "Government is a far leap from tech, but it offers stability; it offers great benefits."

Between the lines: 58% of 2024 graduates say the current economic news makes them feel "somewhat" or "very" pessimistic — up from 46% last year.

  • 37% worry about paying off their student loans (a question Handshake didn't ask last year).
  • 22% are looking for an employer that offers student loan repayment benefits — something that only 7% of employers offer, Handshake says.

Methodology: Opinion data was gleaned from 2,687 students from 616 schools who answered a voluntary online survey from Handshake between March 11-24, 2024.

Editor's note: The chart in this story has been corrected to reflect that the location data is from job applications submitted by 2023 and 2024 graduates on Handshake (not from 2024 graduate survey data).

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