The difficult economic climate means that this year's graduates are facing a tighter job market, according to figures released by Association of Graduate Recruiters.
A survey of some of the UKís leading employers is reporting a 3.4 per cent drop in UK graduate level vacancies compared with 2002. Along with this fall in vacancies, the survey also reveals increased competition for graduate jobs in the UK. Employers received an average of 42.1 applications for every graduate vacancy during the 2002-3 recruitment year compared with 37.2 applications per vacancy in 2001-2.
But the median graduate starting salary has climbed to £20,300, an above-inflation rise of 4.1 per cent on 2002. One in five employers are offering starting salaries of £25,000 or more, with only one in 10 is offering £17,500 or less.
"This survey shows that graduate level vacancies are stabilising somewhat," said Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR. "The modest falls in vacancies this year and last need to be balanced against the large rises we saw in previous years. This is definitely nowhere near a crisis comparable to the situation in the early Ď90s, and it is important that those graduating this summer do not lose their nerve."
Underneath the headline figures, however, the AGR's survey reveals that vacancies have not fallen across the board. While four out of ten employers are reporting a drop in vacancies, more than a third have increased their vacancies in 2003 and more than one in five are recruiting the same number as in 2002.
The construction, transport and logistics sectors are expanding their intake, but others, including investment banking and oil companies, have cut back. Employers are predicting a stable outlook for 2004, with half expecting to offer a similar number of vacancies to 2003. Some 17 per cent of employers are predicting increased levels in 2004 and just 14 per cent are anticipating a drop in vacancies or no recruitment next year.