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New grad job outlook: Higher salaries, fewer offers

  • Graduates of the Class of 2018 are heading into a job market with the lowest unemployment in 17 years and higher starting salaries.
  • However, employers plan to hire fewer new grads than in recent years.
A graduating student of the City College of New York wears a message on his cap during the College's commencement ceremony in the Harlem section of Manhattan.
Mike Segar | Reuters
A graduating student of the City College of New York wears a message on his cap during the College's commencement ceremony in the Harlem section of Manhattan.

For graduates of the Class of 2018, life in the real world is a glass half empty and full.

On one hand, those armed with a newly minted diploma are heading into a job market with the lowest unemployment in 17 years and higher starting salaries.

In fact, new grads are projected to have higher salaries across all 10 degree categories ranging from business to humanities from just last year, when graduates earned an average of $51,022, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

But job prospects have fallen; in some cases, significantly.

Employers plan to hire 1.3 percent fewer graduates from the Class of 2018 than they did from the Class of 2017, NACE said. That marks the first hiring decrease since the Class of 2010, at the end of the recession, when employers planned to cut hiring by 7 percent.

"Insurance and retail companies were decreasing their hires in large numbers and that brought the overall number down," said NACE research manager Andrea Koncz. The most recent devastating hurricane season, coupled with a significant shift toward online shopping, resulted in less demand for employees in those industries, she said.

In the report, 43 percent of employers said they planned to increase hiring in the year ahead. More than half said they planned to maintain hiring numbers.

It's also a glass half empty for millennials entering the workforce with more student loan debt than any previous generation.

Over the last decade, college loan balances in the U.S. have jumped to an all-time high of $1.4 trillion, according to a report by Experian. The average outstanding balance is $34,144, up 62 percent over the last 10 years.

As a result, nearly four in 10 recent graduates don't think it's likely they'll be able to pay off their student loan debt within 10 years, according to a separate report by NerdWallet. Many also said that their student loans will impact their long-term plans to buy a home, get married and even have children.

And once they do land a job, more than 10 percent predicted they will never be able to retire.