Graduate vacancies will drop by nearly 7% this year, according to latest research from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).
The biannual graduate vacancy survey has found graduate recruiters expect the number of jobs they offer in 2010 to drop by 6.9%, which comes after an 8.9% fall in jobs for university leavers last year.
The drop off in vacancies has led to a rise in the number of applications for each graduate job, with employers now receiving on average 69 applications for every position – the highest ever recorded and up from 49 in 2009.
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR, told Personnel Today he was "disappointed" with the figures.
He said: "I was hoping after last year's fall we might have turned a corner, but we are still surrounded by economic uncertainty and this has an impact in business when it comes to investing in the recruitment of graduate talent."
But he added the figures "could be worse" and despite the overall drop in vacancies for university leavers, some sectors had increased their intake this year.
The banking and financial sectors expect to see a 72% rise in the number of graduates they hire this year, while insurance businesses predicted a 53.3% increase. Consulting and business services firms also expect to see a 52.3% rise in vacancies.
But in comparison, the fast-moving consumer goods sector is looking to reduce graduate vacancies by 45.4%, while IT, telecommunication and retail will reduce opportunities by 31.4%.
Public sector employers also expected graduate opportunities to drop by 9.7%.
But Gilleard warned the drop in graduate jobs in the public sector this year was likely to be "just the tip of the iceberg". He said government cutbacks will worsen graduate recruitment prospects in the sector further and could also make the graduate jobs market as a whole "remain tight for another year or two".
"The public sector has been a major source of employment for graduates," he said. "If the public sector is squeezed and there's a freeze on employment, that will have an impact on the prospects for graduates. That's the cloud on the horizon."
Last week, the Higher Education Careers Services Unit warned public sector cuts could increase graduate unemployment to 25%.
The AGR survey also found 78% of graduate recruiters now insist on all candidates having at least a 2.1 university degree - up from 67% in 2008 - because of the number of applications they are receiving.
Gilleard said: "It is hardly surprising the number of employers asking for a 2.1 degree has shot up by 11%. However, while this approach does aid the sifting process, it can rule out promising candidates with the right work skills unnecessarily. We are encouraging our members to look beyond the degree classification when narrowing down the field of candidates to manageable proportions."
The survey of 199 graduate recruiters, who collectively offer a total of 17,920 graduate vacancies, also found the median graduate starting salary has remained static at the 2008 level of £25,000.