April's jobs report is full of great news for college grads

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As college graduation season fast approaches, new grads find themselves heading into one of the friendliest hiring markets in recent history.

In April, 263,000 jobs were added to the economy, putting unemployment at 3.6%, the lowest its been since December 1969. That's according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which also showed wages increasing by 3.2% from a year ago.

"It's a great time to be graduating," Andrew Challenger, VP of executive placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, tells CNBC Make It. "We have historically low unemployment rates and surveys show that American companies plan to hire more graduating college students this year than they did last year."

Challenger, and Glassdoor chief economist Andrew Chamberlain broke down which industries are showing solid job growth and what skill sets recent grads need to emphasize in order to get hired.

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Industries with the strongest growth

For those on the job hunt, Chamberlain says focusing your attention on jobs in the healthcare and professional and business services industries can really pay off.

In April, 27,000 healthcare jobs were added to the market, along with 76,000 professional and business services jobs. With an aging demographic that's moving from the workforce to retirement, Chamberlain says he thinks healthcare "is one of the best fields for long-term growth for a young college grad today.

"And, that doesn't necessarily mean you have to be a nurse practitioner or a healthcare provider," he says. "There are data analyst roles, project manager roles and there are also sales-related roles in healthcare. So depending on your skills, there are a lot of different ways you can fit in there."

In the professional and business services industry, Chamberlain says "management and technical consulting is adding the most jobs, along with computer systems design, which is basically tech."

"If you're coming out as a STEM major," he says, "getting on a software developer track, or a data scientist track, is a great way to earn premium pay right out of school."

According to Glassdoor, the average base salary for an entry-level data scientist is $109,727 per year and the average base salary for an entry-level software developer is $68,270 per year — pretty nice, when you consider the average $50,004 a year salary recent gradates earned in 2018, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) .

On the flip side, Challenger says any recent graduate — or seasoned professional — looking for a new job should steer clear of the retail and manufacturing industries. Data from BLS shows that retail hiring decreased by 12,000 jobs last month and hiring for manufacturing jobs has slowed drastically. In April, manufacturing added a mere 4,000 jobs to the market, whereas in the 12 months prior to February the industry was adding an average of 22,000 jobs per month.


Skills to emphasize

Chamberlain says that any recent graduate who is looking to get hired should play up on their ability to work with data. He says that regardless of what industry you're working in, "anyone who is able to help businesses turn their data into information will find a really good job market no matter where they go."

"That's a main problem many companies face today," he says. "They have a lot of data and they don't know what to do with it."

Additionally, Chamberlain says, companies are looking for people who can "pop in as a consultant and help solve problems. Or, be able to be a storyteller to help the company run better."

"I think those are the factors that will set you up for very long-term growth," he says.

Aside from those skills, Challenger says that any recent grad with a STEM degree will have "skill sets that are in really high demand" in today's market.

10 years ago this month

In April 2009, 539,000 jobs disappeared from the market, reports The New York Times. That put unemployment at 8.9% —the highest level it had been in a quarter century. And April's numbers were actually less severe than previous months.

"The most intense spate of weakness is probably behind us," Michael T. Darda, chief economist at the research and trading firm MKM Partners, told The New York Times in 2009. "Less bad is always a prelude to good. It's going to take some time for this economy to get back on its feet, but we might be closer to the recession ending."

By contrast, today's labor market has shown consistent gains for over 100 months.

"We're getting very close to being in the longest economic expansion in U.S. history," says Chamberlain. "If the economy continues growing through June, we will have 120 months since the end of the last recession."

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