May 10, 2024 - News

Seattle's not the lure it once was for college grads

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

The Emerald City is no longer the dream destination it once was, with a new survey showing that Seattle saw the fourth-largest drop in job applications from recent grads this year compared to other cities.

Why it matters: Just two years ago, Seattle's superstar tech-hub status, green-energy embrace and music and art scene made it America's most desired post-graduation destination for college students, according to the Axios-Generation Lab Next Cities Index.

By the numbers: The share of 2024 grads who said they applied for jobs in Seattle this year is 1.6%, a .35 percentage point drop from the 1.9% share of applications submitted by 2023 grads, according to a March survey by campus recruitment website Handshake.

  • Only Atlanta, Denver and Houston saw higher percentage point drops than Seattle, according to the 2024 data, which covers 242 cities.

Zoom out: The most popular destination for Class of 2024 applicants, per the survey, is New York City, attracting 9.1% of total applications this year over 8% last year.

The intrigue: Fewer graduating seniors are applying for risky-seeming tech jobs — down to 21% in 2024 from 23% last year — and more are seeking the security of a government job, the survey shows.

  • Even among job applicants looking to work in tech, more are targeting those roles in public sector jobs, Christine Cruzvergara, Handshake's chief education strategy officer, told Axios.
  • 7.4% of the applications submitted on Handshake from this year's graduating class were for government positions, up from 5.5% last year, per the data.

The big picture: The Class of 2024 — which Axios' Erica Pandey dubbed "the bummer generation" because of how COVID-19 warped the seminal events of their young lives — apparently wants stability and a comfortable income more than they want risk and pizzazz, Handshake found.

  • Job security, work/life balance and the ability to live near family and friends are the top considerations for the class of 2024, according to Handshake's opinion survey and job applications data.
  • Stability was the chief priority for 76% of applicants, Cruzvergara said.
  • Following that were employer reputation, starting salary, flexible schedule and hybrid work.

What they're saying: "They've had to be nimble, adaptable and gritty. I'm not surprised they're looking for something a bit more stable," said Cruzvergara.

  • "Government is a far leap from tech, but it offers stability (and) great benefits."

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

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