A report into this year's graduate market shows a 0.9 per cent increase in graduate vacancies. But with a record number of applications for graduate positions, competition for jobs is high.
Once the graduation ceremonies have been and gone and the mortar boards tossed in the air, around 340,000 graduates will be entering the jobs market this summer. But depending on what sector they are planning to enter, they are facing an increasingly competitive jobs market.
Graduate recruitment research firm High Fliers' report shows a slight increase in vacancies compared to last year, and much lower than the 6.4 per cent predicted by the main graduate employers in January.
The report also shows an 11 per cent rise in applications to the Times' top 100 graduate employers, with recruiters receiving an average of 52 applications for each of their graduate vacancies. That is a quarter more applications than three years ago.
The stark increase in applications is most likely down to job-seeking graduates from previous years. But the firm also found that graduates are more organised and have started their job searches earlier than ever before, rather than taking a year off to go travelling or going on to further study, as was the case two or three years ago.
The report also found that seven out of ten employers now require graduate applicants to have at least a 2:1 degree.
IT and telecommunications boom
The slight increase in vacancies overall masks a mixed picture. The sector with the biggest increase in graduate vacancies – 39 per cent - is IT and telecommunications, followed by a 20.8 per cent increase in public sector graduate roles, thanks largely to teacher training charity Teach First's unprecedented recruitment of 1,000 graduates.
The consulting sector on the other hand has seen a 31.4 per cent reduction in the number of graduate vacancies, which is the biggest reduction, followed by the media industry at 20 per cent.
However graduates are still hoping to enter sectors like media, publishing, fashion and marketing, which are not hiring as many graduates as they were before the recession.
Employers 'reasonably confident'
Martin Birchall, director of High Fliers said that despite the slight increase, the report had been met with "relief".
"There's been nothing but bad news over the last six months and the fear was that employers would cut back," he told Channel 4 News. "The report reflects how employers feel over the next couple of years, and it means they are reasonably confident about how things might be in a year or two."
The report's findings will not see graduates "jumping for joy" said Tanya de Grunwald, author of How to Get a Graduate Job in a Recession.
"The Class of 2012 is still going to find it tough to secure full-time, paid jobs as they emerge from university this summer," she told Channel 4 News.
The report found that the average graduate wage for 2012 is expected to be £29,000. But this is within the UK's top graduate employers, and Ms de Grunwald is sceptical about whether this applies to graduates as a whole.
"Outside the big graduate schemes, employers remain very cautious about taking on new graduates. And based on what my users tell me, the true average graduate salary is nowhere near £29,000," she said.
"Most of the graduates I speak to are struggling to earn more than £20,000, and many who have been doing unpaid internships for months are thrilled even to be offered the minimum wage."