American employers continue to show interest in hiring college graduates with more than half (55 percent) planning to hire recent alumni, a positive trend over the past few years, aside from a dip in the first half of 2023.

This is according to a recent Express Employment Professionals-Harris Poll survey in which companies also outlined other in-demand demographic segments and industries.

In addition to college graduates, hiring managers say they plan to employ college students (41 percent), vocational/career tech graduates (37 percent), high school students (23 percent) and adults with a disability (21 percent).

Fewer companies plan to hire immigrant workers in 2024 (19 percent) — lower than the first half of 2023 (23 percent) and the second half of 2022 (24 percent).

Some also plan to hire retirees (16 percent), migrant workers (15 percent) or justice-involved individuals (13 percent).

Laborers Needed, Full-Time Employee Demand Surges

Businesses are also looking to hire employees in many key departments in 2024, including general labor (28 percent), customer service (27 percent), sales (27 percent) and IT/technology support (26 percent).

Interest in hiring specifically for IT/technology support has increased since the second half of 2022 (26 percent in the second half of 2023 vs. 23 percent in the second half of 2022).

The majority of hiring managers (86 percent) report their company plans to hire full-time employees, either hourly (61 percent) or salaried (52 percent) this year, with interest in this group the highest it’s been since the survey began in 2020.

Hiring Landscape

“There are a lot of jobs out there, but it is much harder to land them than in the previous two years,” said Jake Domer, senior vice president of the Specialized Recruiting Group. “Graduates will have to be more deliberate, strategic and work hard — but the opportunities are there.”

He adds that overall hiring is still good for college graduates, however, the market has become more competitive and constrained toward proven skills vs. education.

In West Virginia, Express franchise owner Chad Drainer says his market has tightened, and it’s a tough one for college grads to dive into.

“I believe the market is worse than previous years because of concerns with the economy,” he said. “Many companies have tightened their budgets. When they are hiring, they are looking for more experience.”

When alumni start the job hunt, Domer says demand will always be there for the healthcare industry, while Drainer encourages them to consider an additional avenue.

“I believe the best opportunity for college grads is in any sales capacity, whether that is insurance, marketing, advertising sales or staffing,” he said. “Most companies are more willing to hire the right attitude and drive and are willing to train a salesperson.”