Graduate job prospects and starting salaries are set for improvements this year after two years of declining graduate employment.
Figures compiled by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) during December last year suggest that graduate vacancies will rise by 11.9 per cent in 2004, with starting salaries set to increase by 3.9 per cent.
However the figures, compiled from research carried out among 215 graduate employers, are only predications. Last year saw a 3.4 per cent drop in graduate recruitment after the AGR had predicted a 7.9 per cent growth.
The predicted median graduate starting salary for 2004 is £21,100, up from last year’s actual figure of £20,300. But one in four firms said that their starting salary levels would be unchanged on last year, and only a quarter of employers plan to offer new graduates a ‘golden hello’ this year.
As usual, banks, consulting firms, law firms, and fast-moving consumer goods companies offer the best packages, with jobs in London and the south east – expected to make up more than half of all graduate vacancies - paying the most.
Sector-by-sector, the AGR predicts that the largest number of vacancies will be in accountancy and professional services firms, engineering or industrial companies, retailers, investment banks and in the public sector.
But prospects are bleak for graduates looking for a start in marketing and HR, with an oversupply of applicants for few positions.
"I am pleased that the graduate jobs market is picking up after two lean years,” said AGR chief executive, Carl Gilleard.
"Although the growth predicted for 2004 does not match the near-15 per cent increase in vacancy numbers recorded in the 2000 and 2001 recruitment seasons, it does seem to indicate improving conditions in the graduate job market.
"It is good news for those seeking graduate level jobs in 2004 but there is no room for complacency. Competition for the best jobs will remain high and graduates need to be sure about what it is they have to offer employers and market themselves effectively."