HIGH POINT, N.C. — This is graduation week for many colleges and universities across the state, and graduates are entering a promising job market, according to economic experts.
The classes of 2020 and 2021 had their own challenges with finding work in the middle of the pandemic. High Point University student Jordyn Whitted was a junior studying strategic communication when COVID-19 led North Carolina to shut down.
“I applied for the master's program the week that the world shut down in COVID. It’s a dual program so I was able to start my program my senior year and really do it all in two years,” she said.
Whitted decided to continue her education, and this weekend she’ll be graduating with her master’s in strategic communication. It’s a huge accomplishment for her and her family.
“I’m the first person in my family to graduate college, to go to college, so I’m definitely the first to get a master's degree. I’m really excited just to be able to tell my family I did it for us,” she said.
Whitted didn’t have to wait for long before her degree was put to use. In March, three months before graduating, she secured a job as the director of marketing and public relations for Arts Greensboro.
“Things that I did in class for assignments, now I’m actually sending it to people, so I just want to make sure it’s all good, but it is cool seeing what I actually studied being valuable in the real world,” Whitted said.
The job market is strong, especially for new graduates looking for work, according to UNC Greensboro economics professor Matthew Schaffer.
March saw an all-time high of job openings with more than 11.5 million. With roughly 6 million people unemployed, or 3.6%, there’s an average of two job openings per job seeker. For people with bachelor’s degrees or higher, the unemployment rate is about 2%. Schaffer says the job market now is in better shape than before the recession of 2008.
People leaving jobs to pursue higher education helps create more job opportunities, giving greater flexibility to job seekers and more leverage in negotiating wages. This year’s fastest-growing sectors are hospitality, health care and professional services and business, according to Schaffer.
Wrapping up her five-year academic career at HPU is bittersweet for Whitted, but she views her fifth year as a chance to make up for time lost to the pandemic. She got to participate with her sorority and the HPU Marching Band, which she is a founding member of.
As Whitted looks forward to her next steps after graduation, she’s hopeful for the world she’s entering.
“Given everything that’s going on, I hope we kind of emerge from this era with more compassion and more understanding for things, whether that’s political, economic, academic, anything, just a little more understanding,” Whitted said.