Economic Impact: Weaker Labor Market for College Grads this Year, but Higher Wages

Posted on May 8, 2023 by Chris Chmura

This article was originally published in the Richmond Times Dispatch on May 8, 2023. 

College and high school seniors graduating this year will be entering a weaker labor market than last year’s graduates but they will see higher wages because of the elevated level of inflation.

Nonfarm employment increased by 253,000 in April and is 3.3 million above the pre-pandemic peak in February 2020. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average hourly earnings for private sector employees rose 4.4% in April 2023 from the previous year. In the pre-pandemic month of February 2020, it increased 3.1% from the previous year.

In the Richmond area, the number of job postings has been about the same in the most recent week of April 17 when compared with last year, according to Chmura Economics & Analytics’ JobsEQ technology platform. For the last two months, the number of job postings in the area was consistently lower than the same time last year, implying fewer jobs for this year’s graduates. Similar to most places around the nation, job postings were 8.1% lower than the recent June 27, 2021, peak.

For jobs that require an associate’s degree or higher, the strongest demand is for workers with skills in the broad areas of computer, math, and healthcare.

The top four occupations Richmond businesses are currently seeking are computer and information systems managers with an average entry-level salary of $117,200 based on 2022 quarter 4 data (the latest quarter for which data are available), medical and health services managers at $71,800, registered nurses at $64,000, and software developers at $88,000. 

Firms with the most openings for these positions in the Richmond area are Capital One with almost 210 active job posts as of May 3, 2023, followed by Humana (59 posts), Encompass Health (40), and Virginia Commonwealth University (36).

At the other end of the spectrum, there are many occupations where demand is low. In the Richmond region, for example, there were fewer than 10 active job posts for budget analysts, financial examiners, and athletic trainers.

High school graduates this year should also find fewer available jobs but good wage opportunities in the job market.

A little over 8,500 active job posts in the Richmond area as of May 3, 2023 require a high school diploma or equivalent, which was significantly lower than the same time last year with 10,700 job openings. At the top of the list are first-line supervisors of retail workers at a wage of $18.10 per hour based on ads that post wages, followed by retail sales workers at $15.00 an hour, maintenance and repair positions at $20.70 an hour, and stockers and order fillers at $16.50 an hour.


Christine Chmura is CEO and chief economist at Chmura Economics & Analytics. She can be reached at (804) 649-3640 or receive e-mail at

This blog reflects Chmura staff assessments and opinions with the information available at the time the blog was written.