Economic Update: Good News for Graduates Looking for Work: The Economy is Improving

Rising job postings data indicates that this year's college graduates will enter a much stronger labor market than last year's, which was dampened heavily by COVID-19.

This article was originally published in the Richmond Times Dispatch on May 9, 2021. 

Stronger Labor Market

College seniors graduating this month should be entering a much stronger labor market than last year’s graduates.

The increase in vaccinations and decrease in the number of coronavirus infections have boosted the economy just in time for the class of 2021.

Although employment in the nation is struggling to gain traction, it rose by a modest 266,000 in April after a strong increase of 770,000 in March.

Based on job postings that are a leading indicator of employment, many new graduates will find ample opportunities.

In the Richmond area, job postings have been higher so far this year than last year since mid-March, according to Chmura Economics & Analytics’ JobsEQ technology platform. Job postings have been about 100% higher last month than a year ago in April.

Skills in Demand

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

The top four occupations Richmond businesses are currently seeking are registered nurses with an average entry-level salary of $54,400 based on 2019 data (the latest year for which data are available), software developers at $72,300, management analysts at $54,100 and medical and health services managers at $71,800. 

Firms with the most openings for these positions in the Richmond area are Capital One with more than 800 job posts, followed by VCU Health System, HCA, Bon Secours and Humana. Each organization has at least 370 job posts in the last 30 days ending with May 2.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are many occupations where demand is soft. In the Richmond region, for example, there were fewer than 30 job posts for athletic trainers, web developers and lawyers.

Wages for Entry Level Postitions

High school graduates should also find plenty of opportunities in the job market.

More than 1,300 job posts in the Richmond area over the last 30 days are for retail sales positions with an average wage of $13.10 an hour followed by stock and order fillers at $15 an hour, customer service representatives at $13.30 an hour and maintenance and repair positions at $17 an hour.

Some of the entry level positions are particularly in strong demand because some former employees who were laid off during the COVID-19 recession receive more income through unemployment benefits than they would on the job.

The American Rescue Plan provides $300 a week of additional benefits to the maximum $378 paid through Virginia’s unemployment insurance program through the week ending Sept. 4, which translates into $16.95 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

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