Graduate jobs ‘relatively unscathed’ by recession

The dramatic graduate job cuts feared last summer have failed to materialise, according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) biannual survey.

Vacancies in 2009 actually fell by 8.9%, far less than the 24.9% predicted during last summer’s survey.

The AGR said the figures, based on responses from 214 members covering more than 19,000 graduates, showed degree-level recruitment was emerging from the recession “relatively unscathed”.

The news comes as a survey yesterday warned that graduates – in the rush to find and secure jobs this year – were ‘panic-applying’ to multiple firms across sectors, ready to accept more than one job offer to hedge their bets.

Carl Gilleard, AGR chief executive, said: “Today’s survey suggests that the graduate employment market is starting to normalise and to begin the process of recovery. A small decrease following a large one the year before is consistent with previous trends and, by 2011, we could be seeing vacancy increases for the first time since 2008.”

The recruiters surveyed urged graduates to improve their employability by taking temporary paid employment, skills training or unpaid work if a job offer is not forthcoming.

Vacancies

Employers are predicting a 1.6% decrease of vacancies overall in 2010. However, the survey found that 51% of organisations expect to have more vacancies this year than last year and only 31% are reporting a decrease compared to 46% last year.

The banking and financial services sector is predicted to see a 24.5% increase and investment banks and fund managers are set for a 16.2% rise. However, the largest growth this year is expected in oil companies (49.7%) and consulting (47.2%).

Meanwhile the third sector and transport are expecting cuts of 49.2% and 13.5% respectively. Even the public sector, traditionally the safest place to be in a recession, is cutting vacancies by 7.5% this year, primarily due to the downturn.

Accountancy continues to provide the biggest share of graduate jobs, as in previous years, with 18.2% of the total graduate vacancies in 2009.

However, banking and financial services have slipped down the table and last year provided just 7.9% of vacancies – an obvious knock-on effect of the banking crisis, the AGR said.

Oil companies, shown as a standalone sector for the first time in the AGR survey, accounted last year for a massive 15.1% of all graduate jobs and are now the second highest recruiter of graduates among AGR members.

Salaries

The average graduate salary is predicted to remain at £25,000 for the second consecutive year – an unprecedented development in the 20-year history of the AGR survey. This freeze represents a double hit for graduates of 2009 and 2010 who are the first to pay top-up tuition fees for all three years of their degree.

Investment bank or fund managers topped the chart in 2009 with a salary of £38,250, while law firms dropped from £37,000 to £35,000. The public and third sectors trail at the bottom of the table with salaries of £23,000 and £19,000 respectively.

One third of employers plan to offer a premium for a post-graduate degree in 2010 – an increase of 11.7% compared to last year. This suggests that the war for talent has not abated, despite the downturn. A PhD attracts the highest financial premium, followed by such postgraduate qualifications as an MA or MSc.

Overseas recruitment

The number of AGR employers recruiting abroad to fill their vacancies is predicted to fall from 22.8% to 18.4% this year. This, AGR suggests, shows that UK candidates are sharpening up to match competition from abroad in a tighter graduate jobs market or that the overly complex visa process for recruiting foreign graduates is putting employers off.

Last week employers who limit their recruitment advertising to the Russell Group of universities – the top 20 in the UK – were warned they would miss out on diverse talent unless they reached out to other institutions.

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