Opportunities abound for Indiana’s college grads

There’s no better time than now for college graduates to be entering the workforce in Indiana.

Indiana boasted a 3.3% unemployment rate in August, the lowest the rate has been since April 2018, according to the state’s most recent employment statistics. But the job prospects are even brighter for college graduates.

July statistics from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) show that the unemployment rate was just 2.5% for those earning at least a bachelor’s degree. That’s nearly a percentage point lower than the state’s overall rate. And for those who have completed some college or an associate’s degree, the outlook for them is nearly as bright. The unemployment rate for that sector is still just 3%.

The rate, however, jumps to 3.7% for high school graduates with no college and to a whopping 7.4% for those without a high school diploma. Both stats provide further confirmation to what has been widely known for decades—the importance of furthering an education following high school.

“Data shows that the more education you have the less likely you will be unemployed, and the higher your wages will be,” said Fran Valentine, DWD’s Senior Director of Research, Analysis & Engagement. To be sure, median weekly earnings in 2018 topped $1,400 for someone earning a master’s degree and were nearly $1,200 for those with a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But median weekly earnings fell to $730 for workers with just a high school diploma and even further, to $550, for high school dropouts.

To put the stats into better perspective, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree on average earn nearly 40% more than those with a high school diploma. Further, data shows that workers with at least a bachelor’s degree are less likely to be unemployed than those with a high school diploma.

That’s due in large part to the transferable skills that come with higher education allowing workers to move more easily in and out of occupations when seeking work. And, high levels of post-secondary education offer the potential for increased employment stability in occupations that require a bachelor’s degree or more, and “may contribute to the lower rates of unemployment,” Valentine said.

Conversely, many lower-skilled jobs are subject to automation and experience higher elements of labor churn, she said.

DWD is committed to helping young adults learn and acquire new skills in their quests to find gainful employment and enhance their career advancement opportunities.

To meet the challenges ahead, DWD is partnering with area workforce development professionals, employers and education and training providers to help create and deliver programs, tools and education pathways for students, parents and job seekers to ensure they have the resources needed to secure sustainable employment.

One of those resources is INDemand Jobs, an up-to-date inventory of the fastest-growing and most-needed jobs in the state that’s designed for those just entering the job market as well as those looking for a career change. These jobs are available now and will continue to grow over the next 10 years, as the state will need to fill more than 1 million job openings during that time.

It’s imperative that DWD create nimble systems to put people in the best situations and environments possible to skill themselves up and move forward with their careers, DWD Commissioner Fred Payne said.

“As we forge ahead into 2020, it is imperative that programs like Gov. Holcomb’s Next Level Jobs initiative continue to grow and provide the skilled training that employers so critically need, and Hoosier workers are seeking,” Payne said.