As Bentley University’s director of undergraduate career services, Len Morrison is expecting a very busy autumn of on-campus recruiting by companies.
A major accounting firm already has signaled that it wants to hire 24 Bentley students, ideally signing them before they graduate next May. Meanwhile, the Waltham university’s career fair in October is close to sold out, as firms desperately seek talent.
“There’s almost a feeding frenzy for candidates with the right backgrounds,” said Morrison.
The job market in Massachusetts has heated up this year and should stay that way through the rest of the year, barring any unexpected economic, foreign policy, or other calamity, Morrison and economists agree.
The state unemployment rate, 5.6 percent, is near the six-year low as the state has added nearly 70,000 jobs over the past year, a pace not seen since the dot-com boom at the beginning of the century. Earlier this year, the state surpassed the all-time employment record reached just before the boom went bust in early 2001.
“The job picture looks better than it has in a while,” said Alan Clayton-Matthews, an economist at Northeastern University. “But you have to have the right skills. That’s the key. You have to have the right skills.”
The information technology sector has boomed for a number of years now, creating a shortage of workers with degrees and experience in the computer sciences. From startups to established tech firms, companies can’t find enough qualified IT workers for their needs, said Brendan King, chief executive of King & Bishop Inc., a Waltham recruiting company.
Industry officials say demand is so high for software engineers that entry-level salaries now start around $75,000 — if not higher.
“Actually, just about all companies need good software engineers,” said King, whose firm has added three recruiters over the past year to handle increased demand from companies.
Another recent bright spot is financial services, as the industry rebounds from the banking crisis of several years ago. Workers with financial degrees and background are back in demand. At Bentley, for example, insurers Liberty Mutual and John Hancock Financial, mutual fund company Fidelity Investments, and financial firm State Street Corp. are all seeking financial analysts, accountants, and others handy with math.
But it’s not just financial firms looking for those with financial skills. EMC Corp., the giant Hopkinton technology company, Boston Scientific Corp., the Marlborough life-sciences firm, and the TJX Cos., the Framingham retailer, are also recruiting at Bentley, known for its finance, business, accounting, and actuarial programs.
The state’s life-science sector — which includes biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical-device companies — is also expanding briskly, said Stephen Provost, cofounder and partner at Prestige Scientific, an executive search firm in Milford. In particular, small biotechs with venture capital money are pressing hard to find executives familiar with managing biotech firms, he said.
“We’re past economic recovery and are now into a full expansion,” said Bill Driscoll, the New England president of Robert Half International, a recruiting company headquartered in California.
The benefits of the expansion, however, have been distributed unevenly in the state. Many older industrial cities, with high immigrant and low-income populations, have unemployment rates of 8 percent or higher, according to labor market data. Industries, such as manufacturing, are far from recovering jobs lost in the last recession.
The unemployment rate nationally for those with just a high school diploma is double that of people with college degrees, according to the Labor Department. Joblessness among high school dropouts is three times the rate college graduates.
But for those with the right education and skills, employers are waiting.
Shiza Ahmed, 20, a senior at Bentley University, said she had heard of students being offered lucrative jobs well before they graduated. But she was still taken aback when a major financial firm, for which she had interned this past summer, recently offered her a full-time job as an associate analyst, starting next summer, after she graduates.
Over the Labor Day weekend, she decided to accept the job offer from the company.
“It came as a pleasant shock,” said Ahmed, who’s majoring in economics-finance at Bentley. “Some students can stress themselves out when they don’t have a job lined up. It’s a great relief to know I have a job.”
Jay Fitzgerald can be reached at email@example.com.
Correction: An earlier version of a photo caption in this story had the incorrect name for Bentley University.