April’s Unemployment Rate Means Good News for Graduates Seeking Jobs

With the U.S. unemployment rate at a nearly 50-year low of 3.6 percent in April, this year’s graduates should have an easier time finding jobs than their predecessors. And even better news is that wages for employees at private nonfarm companies have started rising — they were up 3.2 percent in the nation over the 12 months ending in April.

More than 40,750 jobs were posted on the internet in the Richmond metropolitan area over the past 30 days, based on Chmura’s Real Time Information job postings. Job openings are widespread across most occupations.

Nearly 6,000 jobs are in sales and related occupations, followed by more than 4,500 in health care occupations. Computer and math occupations also were high, with more than 3,400 openings. Among the openings with an education requirement, about half required at least a high school diploma or equivalent, and the other half required an associate’s degree or higher.

Plenty of opportunities are available for high school, community college and college graduates, based on the top 10 occupations with the most openings. For high school graduates, retail sales jobs (2,528 job postings), food preparation and serving positions (1,231 postings) and customer service representatives (804 postings) are among the top 10 possible occupations.

Retail workers typically earned $18,200 annually in 2018, based on the latest data available for entry-level wages in the Richmond metro area from Chmura’s JobsEQ technology platform. Food workers earned $16,800 in 2018, while customer service representatives earned $23,800, according to the data.

Hundreds of retailers in the region are hiring based on the job postings. Food Lion, Target and Lowe’s combined have more than 500 openings for retail positions, while Taco Bell, Subway and others have more than 200 job openings for food preparation and serving workers.

A wide mix of companies are hiring customer service representatives. In addition to a high school education, most of the employers hiring for these positions are looking for applicants to have soft skills in customer care and communication.

Within the health care sector, registered nurses are the most in-demand occupation by employers in the region, with 1,490 open positions in the past 30 days. These occupations generally required an associate or bachelor’s degree, and the beginning salary averaged about $53,100 in 2018.

HCA, Bon Secours Health System and VCU Health System — the region’s three largest hospital systems — collectively posted more than 800 openings for registered nurses in the area in the past 30 days. 

Demand also is strong for those with an information technology skill set. More than 800 job postings in the region over the past 30 days were for applications software developers, with Capital One posting by far the most openings at 171. The beginning salary for this occupation averaged about $71,100 in 2018. 

This commentary was originally published in the May 12, 2019 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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About Christine Chmura

Christine Chmura is president and chief economist at Chmura Economics & Analytics. She can be reached at (804) 649-3640 or at chris@chmuraecon.com.
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