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2016 Should Be A Good Year For New Graduates To Launch A Career

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This may be the best time in a decade to be graduating from college. That's the view of some economists who note the job market keeps getting stronger. The employment report due out today is expected to show more improvement.

Recent studies say students getting diplomas this month will find companies have more jobs and more money to offer them, which is a very different picture than it was and than it remains for graduates of the Great Recession. Here is Charles Lane of member station WSHU.

CHARLES LANE, BYLINE: About an hour before I met Mohammed Ahmed, he had sat down to send out resumes.

MOHAMMED AHMED: And then within I'd say about 20 minutes to a half-hour, I got a phone call. And I scheduled an interview for tomorrow.

LANE: Ahmed is feeling pretty confident about his future. He's finishing up his MBA at Stony Brook University in New York. His bachelors is in pharmacology. But Ahmed's older sister also got her MBA with a medicine background, except she graduated just as the recession was settling in.

AHMED: You know, she would constantly be applying, wouldn't be able to hear back. And if she did hear back, it was for positions that she wasn't interested in.

LANE: Following the recession, unemployment for those with a college degree was about 5 percent. This year, it's been half of that. A recent poll paid for by the job website CareerBuilder found that more companies will be filling positions with recent grads. And 37 percent of those companies will be increasing starting salary.

A similar survey comes from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Research director Andrea Koncz says companies are seeking the young and the college educated.

ANDREA KONCZ: They continue to increase hiring knowing that there are retirements. There's open positions to fill. And it's important to keep new college graduates in their talent pipelines.

LANE: The most in-demand jobs involve technology, business and engineering. And that underscores how the labor market is changing. Nariman Behravesh is an economist with IHS. He says the so-called education premium is getting bigger.

NARIMAN BEHRAVESH: Which is to to say, the premium that skilled workers and educated workers get over and above what unskilled workers get, that has risen and probably will continue to rise.

LANE: But here's a cruel twist. The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, says its data show it can be tough to get a good job even with a college education if you were born at the wrong time. Here's senior economist Elise Gould.

ELISE GOULD: I mean, just for the luck of when you were born and when you graduated from high school or graduated from college or the lack of luck, I should say, it means that your lifetime earnings are going to suffer.

LANE: Graduating into a recession means workers have to take lesser jobs and may have more holes in their resume. Gould worries that as employers start adding jobs, they will look not to the grads of previous years but to new graduates without the scars of the recession. For NPR News, I'm Charles Lane. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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