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Amid a robust economy and low unemployment, why can't grads get hired?

Why are employers turning up their noses at the last of the millennials?
Image: Graduates line up for the 2017 Berkshire Community College graduation ceremony
Graduates line up for the 2017 Berkshire Community College graduation ceremony in Lenox, Massachusetts on June 2, 2017.Stephanie Zollshan / The Berkshire Eagle via AP

With a robust economy and near-record low unemployment rate, 2018 is shaping up to be the best year in the past decade for job seekers. But best not get too cavalier — especially if you’re fresh out of college.

A new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) shows that for the first time in eight years, managers are pulling back the reins on hiring college grads, with a projected 1.3 percent decrease from last year. Additionally, a survey from found that of 350 college students polled, 75 percent don't have a job lined up yet.

So why are employers turning up their noses at the last of the millennials?

First, it's important to note that NACE's prediction of a hiring dip appears to be tied to the pains of two major employment sectors: retail and insurance.

"Retail hiring is down because there's still so much fallout from e-commerce," Ryan Severino, chief economist at JLL, told NBC News. "The insurance hiring declines are due to the many disasters last year and a consequence of the payouts these companies had to make."

Three out of four grads-to-be don't even have a job lined up.

Maria Flynn, CEO of Jobs for the Future, seconds Severino's observations, adding that increased automation in the insurance sector could also be a factor. "More and more actuarial jobs are being automated and a lot of those traditional jobs are being eliminated or restructured."

Despite the diminished interest in hiring grads in the retail and insurance sectors, experts concur that the prospects across the board aren’t too bleak. "A 1.3 percent decrease isn't too alarming, particularly given a sustained period of expansion, as we have seen," said Flynn.

Still, new grads are likely facing a tough wake-up call, particularly when considering Monster's findings that three out of four grads-to-be don't have a job lined up. Alexander Lowry, a professor of finance at Gordon College and director for the school's Master of Science in Financial Analysis program, notes that once in the not so distant past, new grads who were struggling to land their dream job would take a temporary job at a place like the Gap, “but with the [weakening of brick-and-mortar] retail, this isn’t much of an option anymore.”

Vicki Salemi, career expert at, points out that ideally, students launch their job search efforts in the fall of their senior year when recruiters are ramping up their on-campus efforts to attract new candidates. Of course, this can be tough when you’re juggling school and possibly a part-time job, or if you’re simply undecided about what career you want to pursue. Moreover, only select competitive fields have these robust recruiting efforts. Liberal arts students tend not to see the same kind of corporate enthusiasm for their talents as their peers in STEM, finance, or business.

Move back home or to the boonies

Typically, students have to start paying back their student loans six months after graduation. With these financial pressures looming, it’s likely that grads who don’t have a job lined up will consider moving back home.

“I see the millennial trend of moving back home into your parents’ basement continuing, especially when you factor in their student debt,” said Salemi, adding that this doesn’t have to be a negative thing (parents may of course, beg to differ).

“You may be living home longer than planned — but you can save a lot by doing so,” said Salemi, adding that if you’re able and willing to move to a city where the cost of living is reasonable, you could break into the industry of your dreams and start building a nest egg. “NYC will always be be there, so maybe live somewhere like Short Hills, New Jersey and set the goal of moving to the city in five years.”

Greater migrations may also be carried out, especially if those new to the workforce are eager to put their skills to use in the regions that have a shortage of talent.

“It’s very clear that some parts of country need certain skills more than others; take engineers in the West Coast, for example,” said Lowry. “I think more than any previous generation we will see more people moving to affordable places where there’s work. This younger generation will be more willing to make sacrifices for quality of life.”

Not only might they have a better quality of life (and be able to pay down their staggering student loan debts), but their willingness to make the move to a less glamorous locale could actually play into the hands of companies who are keen on keeping costs down.

“I have a friend who’s an executive at a finance company and he pays the same for a floor in New York as he does for a whole building in Denver — and his workforce is way happier in Denver,” said Lowry. “Where do you think he’s going to choose to build out?”