Employers are reportedly planning to increase their graduate vacancies by only 3% this year, compared to the predicted 18% growth of graduate recruitment numbers in 2019.
Seventy-four per cent of employers reported that it was no easier or more difficult to find graduate jobs than in previous years.
One respondent in the energy, engineering and industry sector highlighted the challenges associated with students reneging on job offers.
They said: “Graduates are quite open about the fact that they will accept a number of offers and make up their minds at the end of the recruitment season. We do not have difficulty in finding quality graduates – if we don't fill all our vacancies it is because of late withdrawals.”
However, charity and public sector graduate vacancies have increased by 14%, which the ISE said is preventing the labour market from shrinking. If the charity and public sector roles were to be removed from the figures the graduate market would be stagnant this year.
The ISE’s research also found that employers are increasing vacancies for apprenticeships and school leaver programmes by just 2%.
In 2019 employers reported an increase of 7%, which the ISE said demonstrated that the growth of non-graduate numbers stimulated by the apprenticeship levy is peaking.
Stephen Isherwood, the ISE's chief executive, said: “The graduate jobs market is an early indicator of the health of the economy as employers tend to plan further ahead when deciding their graduate recruitment needs. What we’re seeing now is particularly concerning as employers are normally over-optimistic at this time of the year. As we move through the recruitment season they typically recruit less than they had anticipated.
“Outside the public sector the market is not looking particularly healthy. The government needs to get the economy moving otherwise this year we’ll be in for a stagnant graduate labour market at best. If the government want to see further growth in the apprentice market it needs to address employer concerns about how the apprenticeship levy works,” added Isherwood.
The survey ran for three weeks during December and received 296 responses.