The outlook for college graduates entering the job market next June remains relatively good despite any recession. Moreover, beginning salaries for those holding highly desirable degrees in engineering, computer science and business management are expected to rise comfortably ahead of the average.
Among the lessons business learned during the recession of 1974-75 was that a gap in the manpower supply line was created when hiring of college graduates was cut back, according to John D. Shingleton, who as director of placement for Michigan State University conducts an annual survey of employers. Shingleton anticipates a slight increase of between 1 and 2 percent in the number of graduates hired this year.This contrasts with the much more optimistic forecast by the College Placement Council in Bethlehem, Pa., of a 13 percent rise.
In Shingleton's survey, the job market looks brightest for graduates in accounting, aerospace, electronics, merchandising/retailing, military and the petroleum industries. Moderate hiring can be expected in the fields of electric equipment/machinery, food and beverage processing, hospitals and health services, hotels and motels, metals and metal products, utilities, and research and consulting. The auto industry outlook is bleak.
The states where it will be easiest to find a job are in the Sun Belt and the North Central region. The Southeast, Northeast and Northwest had the lowest hiring potential.
Another study by Northwestern University found that 39 percent of the employers responding felt that 1980 would be a better year for hiring than 1979, while 23 percent thought it would be worse, and 38 percent said it would be about the same. Northwestern's Dr. Frank S. Endicott said starting salaries reported by the 185 companies responding were an indication that engineering graduates could expect to be offered an average of $20,136, or 9 percent more than last year.
MBA holders with engineering backgrounds can expect a similar increase in starting salary, to $23,136. Liberal arts majors, on the other hand, should expect no more than 5 percent more pay than last year.
The broader picture is not so optimistic. Employment outlook surveys for the coming year show that most industries are not planning extensive layoffs, but neither are they planning to hire. The obvious exception seems to be the automotive industry.
In 1978 white collar workers became a majority in the work force, and the trend is expected to continue throughout the decade. The long-range outlook for the manufacturing sector is slow growth. An unpublished survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that new white collar jobs will increase by 24 percent to 58 million in 1990, whereas blue collar jobs will increase by 16 percent to 36 million.
Those occupations scheduled for substantial reductions include compositors, railroad workers, farm workers, merchant marine sailors, and blacksmiths. Occupations showing the greatest opportunities for employment include bank clerks, city managers, dishwashers, travel agents and flight attendants. Almost double the present number of computer service technicians, dental hygienists and occupational therapists will be needed by 1990.
The Commerce Department's annual industrial outlook predicts gains in the service sector. The automotive repair and spare parts industry is expected to show a rise of 16 percent next year, after a 19 1/2 percent increase in 1979. Hotels and motels will benefit from increased leisure travel. Given the gasoline shortage, Americans are expected to travel less often but to stay longer, thus raising anticipated revenues by 10 percent. Advertising will be up 12.7 percent next year, thanks in large measure to the winter and summer Olympics games and the presidential campaign.
Some of the problems the country experienced during the 1970s will be solved in the 1980s by Father Time and Mother Nature as well as Uncle Sam. The "baby boom" generation has virtually completed its entry into the labor force.
During this decade and into the '90s there will be far fewer persons looking for work. Between 1976 and 1980 the work force grew at an annual rate of 1.8 percent. In the next five years that rate will be slowed to 1.3 percent or just over half what it was in the early '70s, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics demographic projections.
Fewer persons seeking jobs theoretically means fuller employment. And because there will be fewer teenagers, youth unemployment, a major problem today, is likely to diminish. However, it remains to be seen what effect the decision of more women to enter the market and of some older workers to remain on the job after 65 now that mandatory retirement is no longer legal before 70 will have on the absorption into the labor force of those at the other end of the age scale.
The proportion of women in the work force will continue to increase from its present 42 percent, but the increase will be slower than in the 1970s. fOnly if large number of older workers remain -- a trend that has not yet developed -- will the entry of new young job applicants be affected.
Not only will the size of the labor force be changed, so will its composition. By the end of this decade there will be 20 million more Americans than there were at the start. Of that increase, 16 million people wil be aged 25 to 44. Workers in their prime are more productive than younger ones because they are more ambitious, competitive and experienced, according to Jerome A. Mark, BLS's assistant commissioner for productivity and technology.
And with relatively fewer, better workers, investment capital goes further, thus causing a rise in productivity, he predicts that the annual growth rate will reach 2 percent by the end of the decade.
This is considerably less than the annual 3 percent growth the U.S. enjoyed in the first two postwar deaces, but substantially better than that of the last decade.