Education & Family

Graduate job outlook 'recovering'

Job fair
Image caption Graduate vacancies are rising again after the recession, suggests a survey

University leavers face a jobs market that is showing signs of improvement for the first time since the recession, research suggests.

A survey of more than 200 employers in the UK reveals an 8.9% annual increase in graduate jobs.

But tough competition means it is still an "employers' market", the Association of Graduate Recruiters says.

The survey shows that average starting salaries have not risen for three years, staying at £25,000 per year.

This report confirms an upward trend in job opportunities for graduates, after a steep decline in the wake of the financial crisis.

The improving jobs market was driven by a surge of vacancies at the end of last year, says the survey, with a forecast of a further 3.8% increase for this year.

"It is heartening to see that after so many months of misery for graduates, the job market is finally picking up," said Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).

But such optimism is tempered by warnings that demands for jobs is continuing to outstrip supply and that employers are receiving high levels of applications.

This intense competition is also allowing employers to freeze starting salaries.

Work experience

Although another jobs survey last week showed that while the average starting salaries might be kept down, there were wide differences between sectors, with recruits into investment banking starting on £42,000.

There are also indications that an increasing number of vacancies are being taken by applicants who have carried out work placements with an employer.

Ernst and Young says more than a third of places in its graduate intake have gone to applicants who have carried out internships at the firm.

Microsoft also said: "In this tough jobs market, getting access to these placements is absolutely invaluable for young people, because it is increasingly a foot in the door to a future career."

This follows a pattern identified in a graduate jobs survey last week which showed the value placed by employers on work experience.

There are also suggestions that employers are hoping to recruit the most talented youngsters by establishing links with them before they graduate.

The UCU lecturers' union warned that graduate pay was not keeping pace with the forthcoming increase in tuition fees - and that the rewards of going to university would be diminished.

Universities Minister David Willetts said: "A degree remains a good investment in the long term and is one of the best pathways to achieving a good job and rewarding career."

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