May 27, 2022 - News

New college graduates reap the benefits of best market in decades

Illustration of increasingly desperate "now hiring" signs

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Students graduating college this spring are entering what many career experts say is the best job market in years.

What's happening: Minnesota has a record low unemployment rate of 2.2%. Plus, college grads can now take jobs at faraway companies and work remotely in the Twin Cities, further expanding their options.

  • "This is the best job market in decades," said Mick Doherty, executive president of Dahl Consulting, an Edina-based staffing and recruiting firm.

Why it matters: Unlike their millennial cousins, new Gen Z grads get to be selective in where they work and have the leverage to command larger starting salaries.

What they're saying: "We're absolutely seeing that students who are getting multiple offers can be a little pickier," said Bryan Shealer, senior associate director for employer and alumni relations at St. Olaf College.

  • At the University of Minnesota, career fairs now have more employers and fewer students, said interim senior director of career services Sara Nagel Newberg.
  • "Employers are trying to figure out how they can do more to reach our grads," she added. "I haven't seen employers this stressed."

Between the lines: It's not just bigger salaries that grads want. They're also looking for companies that are a cultural match, provide clear responsibilities and offer flexibility, mainly in the form of hybrid work, Doherty said.

  • The tables have turned in the interview process, he added. "Graduates are interviewing the company to make sure it's a right fit for them."

Zoom in: Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank is being more competitive with sign-on bonuses and relocation expenses, said Vicky Hidalgo, the bank's national leader of early talent. It's also making sure job candidates hear about the company culture.

  • "We're really focused on creating a workplace where everybody has a voice and diverse experiences are valued. I think both of those angles really play into the work that college students want to do," she said.

Yes, but: While the job market is robust, new grads have some challenges.

  • Some will start a job and work completely remotely, which doesn't allow for face-to-face contact.
  • "Recent alumni have said, 'I can't get the mentoring that I need,'" Newberg said. "I've heard an employer — they're fully in-person — and they're finding candidates that are seeking them out because that's the environment they want."

The bottom line: While wages are up, so is inflation. The biggest expense for new grads is an apartment, and the average rent in the metro area is now nearly $1,400, up 4.9% over a year ago.

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