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AGR Conference: Association of Graduate Recruiters figures show graduate vacancies have dropped by 7%

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The number of graduate vacancies has fallen by nearly 7% this year, according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), which published the summer edition of its bi-annual survey today.

Today’s reported decrease follows a drop of 8.9% in 2009. The median graduate starting salary has also failed to rise and remains at the 2008 figure of £25,000.

The drop in vacancies has caused a corresponding increase in the number of applications for each much sought-after graduate job – the average now stands at 69 for every vacancy, compared with 49 last year and 31 in 2008.

This is due not only to a decrease in jobs but also to the number of graduate jobseekers being swollen by 2007 and 2008 graduates who have yet to find work and an understandable move on the part of graduates to send off more applications during a downturn. Graduate recruiters have responded by retreating to the safety of the minimum 2.1 degree selection criterion in order to cope with the influx. The AGR survey shows 78% of employers now insist on this as opposed to 67% in 2008.

Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR, said: "Two consecutive years of decreases in vacancy levels is a familiar pattern during an economic downturn and this latest fall mirrors the two-year drop in graduate vacancies prompted by the dot.com crash in 2001/02. Employers’ earlier predictions for this year’s recruitment season have turned out to be somewhat premature in their optimism and today’s findings suggest that the recovery is going to be slower than previously thought.

"Recruiters are under intense pressure this year dealing with a huge number of applications from graduates for a diminishing pool of jobs. Those of our members who took part in the survey reported a total of 686,660 applications since the beginning of the 2010 recruitment campaign. It is hardly surprising then that the number of employers asking for a 2.1 degree has shot up by 11 percentage points. However, while this approach does aid the sifting process, it can rule out promising candidates with the right work skills unnecessarily. We are encouraging our members to look beyond the degree classification when narrowing down the field of candidates to manageable proportions."

The research is based on the responses of 199 AGR members in the UK across 18 sectors who will provide an estimated 17,920 graduate vacancies in 2010. The research was carried out by CFE in May 2010.