Graduate vacancies will drop by 5.4% in 2009, the first fall since 2003, according to forecasts from the Association of Graduate Recruiters.
The banks are leading the trend with an expected 28% cut in number of vacancies during this year. Meanwhile, the engineering sector expects a rise in graduate jobs of 8.3%, the Association found.
The AGR's biennial survey of the graduate jobs market most employers were blaming the economic downturn for the cuts. This follows an unexpected last minute drop in recruitment levels in 2008.
Even those graduates who do get a job in 2009 should expect to see starting salaries frozen for the first time in the survey's history. This year's median starting salary is stuck at the 2008 figure of £25,000, while some employers, notably in banking and financial services, will be cutting graduate salaries - by up to 8% in some cases, the AGR said.
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR said: "Last summer our members predicted an optimistic growth in vacancies of over 11%. Soon after that we saw a series of catastrophic events in the financial sector with serious consequences for many other sectors such as construction. It comes as no surprise that these seismic shifts in the economy are being mirrored to some extent in the graduate jobs market. The predicted rise in jobs in 2008 simply did not occur."
The AGR's report is based on responses from 245 of the country's graduate recruiters across 12 main sectors employing 21,144 graduates. The research was carried out by research and marketing firm trendence in November and December 2008 and updated in mid-January 2009.
Graduates had already been facing increasing competition for each vacancy. In October 2008, Broadbean Technology found that applications per vacancy had doubled since 2007.