Despite outlooks for slower economic growth, college graduates can expect a “fairly strong” job market when they go looking for work next year after earning their degrees. In its annual recruiting trends report, Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute surveyed more than 2,800 U.S. employers in all 50 states and across all sectors and projects job opportunities will grow 12 percent across all degrees. Employers plan to hire more graduates with associate or bachelor’s degrees, and reduce hiring for students coming out of college with a master’s degree, said Phil Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute.
What did employers tell you about their hiring plans for 2020?
What we’re really seeing and what we anticipate is we’re going to continue to see a fairly strong college labor market. We’re in our 10th year of that now and that’s kind of unusual for a labor market to continue without some dips along the way, but this one has been very good and it’s out a little bit ahead of a national labor market. It was much stronger than we anticipated given some of the clouds around the economy, so we’re grateful. It looks like from every way we’ve looked at the data that it’s going to stand up through the spring. We don’t see anything right now that’s going to be a repeat of 2008 or 2000 when things looked good going in and then just collapsed.
How does the Midwest compare with the rest of the nation?
Things look really good … and promising … for our region, which is made up mostly of Michigan, but includes Indiana and Illinois. It’s really the strength of small employers that we often overlook and they seem to remain enthusiastic about growth and the opportunities.
How are some of the things going on in the economy affecting hiring plans for 2020?
It’s hard to tell. We asked questions about the global economy and tariffs, and in those two cases, about one in five of them (regionally) reported they had to make adjustments in their hiring outlooks because of what’s going on. That’s very close to what the national numbers say. One in five employers are being indirectly impacted by tariffs and the global economy.
The thing that’s really influencing employers is turnover. As the economy remains strong and the opportunities have increased, employers have faced employees finding better opportunities down the street or at a different company. Employers are dealing with turnover and we’re continuing to grow at a pace that they still need to hire.
What surprised you in this year’s results?
That we didn’t have a stronger reaction from employers about economic concerns that were coming in. While we continue to get reports from groups like the Institute for Supply Management, the National Association of Business Economics and some more recent ones, employers were more confident about hiring than I thought. That was a big surprise. We’ve had nine years of big growth, the last four or five of them have been in double-digits and last year it dipped down a bit, which I thought was more sustainable. There’s a little more confidence out there than I anticipated.
Employers are confident for now, but what’s something they’re doing in response to outlooks for slower economic growth next year?
They’re going after degrees that cost less. Instead of needing master’s or MBAs in business, they’re getting BAs. Instead of BAs in computer science or I.T., they’re going to a community college or a two-year school for a computer science graduate or I.T. type. We see some of that going on. They’re being cautious but they’re still hiring and have reshuffled their opportunities in a way that favors associate and bachelor’s degrees over master’s degrees.
What would you like to hear the candidates talk about during the 2020 presidential campaign?
Education. Because we have to find ways to continue to have the workforce understand they have to continually be able to elevate themselves in skills and abilities or they’re not going to keep up with the labor market. Education and training development become a really key question in how we do that. Another is how are we going to respond to A.I. (artificial intelligence) and cognitive systems technology? It’s going to be very disruptive and I don’t think most politicians understand that. By the time they do, it’s going to be too late.