One reason graduates may be benefiting from larger overall salary increases is the historically low 3.9 percent unemployment rate that's making it tougher to find job candidates. Rather than pay a premium for experienced workers, some employers would prefer to bring on fresh-faced grads and train them, Yildirmaz says. That's increasing the competition and pushing their earnings higher.
New entrants, after all, are still a bargain, earning an average $11.96 an hour, compared with $29.86 for people holding jobs and $27.91 for jobs switchers, ADP figures show.
Another reason entrants are seeing larger pay hikes is that many may have recently picked up cutting-edge skills and knowledge in the classroom, particularly in fields such as digital technology, Yildirmaz says.
Overall, new entrants to the labor force are seeing the biggest wage increases in high-skill fields, with a 7.6 percent jump in information — which includes computer workers — 6.8 percent in construction and 6.5 percent in manufacturing. Starting wages ranged from $9.41 in leisure and hospitality — which includes restaurants, bars and hotels — to $16.79 in information, according to ADP.
The West — which houses technology hubs such as Silicon Valley, Seattle and Denver — led the nation, as newly minted workers there saw pay increases of 7.4 percent, compared with 5.1 percent in the Northeast, 4.9 percent in the Midwest and 3.8 percent in the South.
The average hourly wage growth reported by the Labor Department, which includes workers who switch jobs frequently, was 2.6 percent in April, down from 2.8 percent. But it's expected to accelerate as the labor market tightens further.