Starting salaries for graduates have only increased by a median of 2% in the past year to £23,000, according to the IRS Graduate Recruitment Survey 2008-09.
The results, based on 277 salary samples supplied by 171 employers, showed that while the average increase is slightly higher at 2.4%, private sector employers appear to have frozen their starting salaries for graduates.
These increases are significantly lower than that of the UK workforce as a whole, which had a median increase of 3.5%.
But none of these figures top the increase in the cost of living. The Retail Price Index rose to 5% in September from 4.8% in August, while the Consumer Price Index now stands at 5.2%, up from 4.7% in August.
Half of employers’ starting salaries are between £20,152 and £25,000, while three-quarters do not exceed £25,000.
Salaries tend to be more generous among larger employers and private sector services organisations, followed by the manufacturing and production sector, and then the public sector. Finance, IT and law firms offer the biggest pay packets.
Between 2007 and 2008, 40% of employers increased their graduate vacancies, while 35% kept them at the same level, and 11% reduced them.
And in late September, the graduate recruitment market was headed for a modest expansion. One in three employers (31%) were expecting to increase their graduate intakes in 2009, and just over half were expecting to keep them at their current levels. However, in the present economic situation, demand for graduates is now uncertain.
This uncertainty is unlikely to have a major effect on the basic structures of graduate recruitment, however, such as candidate attraction methods and retention techniques.
The internet is considered the best means of finding good-quality candidates, based on feedback from 166 graduate recruiters. Hiring former work placement students is also highly commended, as is attendance at recruitment fairs and presentations on or near university campuses.
The survey showed that the most popular forms of job application method being used by graduate recruiters are electronic application forms (70%), followed by CVs (48%), and paper-based application forms (37%).