UK graduates face 7 percent drop in job vacancies

LONDON (Reuters) - Students finishing university this summer face the toughest search for jobs in a decade as employers cut back on coveted graduate vacancies following the worst recession in a generation, recruiters said on Tuesday.

Nearly 70 people will be chasing each graduate opening, compared to 49 last year and 31 the year before, the Association of Graduate Recruiters said.

Vacancies are expected to fall 7 percent this year, after a 9 percent fall in 2009, with demand for the jobs swollen by graduates from previous years still looking for work.

The AGR said as a consequence more employers were insisting on at least a 2:1 class degree, with 78 percent demanding the qualification as opposed to 67 percent two years ago.

“Recruiters are under intense pressure this year dealing with a huge number of applications from graduates for a diminishing pool of jobs,” said AGR chief executive Carl Gilleard.

More than half of the firms surveyed said they had more than 50 applicants for each vacancy, with some saying they had attracted more than 500 applications per job opening.

The numbers chasing vacancies was the highest in the ten-year history of the AGR survey.

The National Union of Students called on the government to invest in more jobs.

“Graduates will be the engines of our economic recovery and the government must invest in creating the jobs and training opportunities so that this exceptional pool of talent does not stagnate,” said NUS President Aaron Porter.

Official data released last week showed that one in ten students who graduated in Britain last year failed to find work, with computer science finalists hit hardest.

Reporting by Tim Castle