The average starting salary for British graduates has reached £21,000 - and £25,000 in London Ė after the first rise in graduate vacancies for three years.
According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), rising business confidence and better trading conditions have led to a 15.5 per cent rise in the number of graduate vacancies after small falls in 2003 and 2002.
More than eight out of ten (82 per cent) also said that they expect to maintain or increase recruitment next year.
The AGRís poll of 223 large employers for its annual graduate recruitment survey also highlights just how far the demand is concentrated in London and the South East.
London generated just under four out of every ten new graduate vacancies. In contrast, fewer than one in ten (eight per cent) of vacancies are located in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The same regional differences applies to starting salaries. A new graduate in London can expect to start on £25,000, with the average for the South East standing at £21,500. But in Scotland the figure is £18,500, and only £18,000 in Northern Ireland.
Overall, salaries have risen by 3.4 per cent on 2003 when the median starting rate was £20,300.
But graduates taken on by investment banks can expect to receive a far higher salary Ė £35,000 on avarage - with consulting firms paying £28,500 and law firms £28,000.
The public sector struggles against these figures, paying starting salaries that are lower than the national average at £19,700.
The AGR also found that the highest demand for graduates was in the areas of chartered accountancy, general management, legal work, information technology and retail.