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Job prospects for 2015 grads

This year’s flood of graduates will have significantly more positions to choose from than last year’s university leavers, which has helped lift the number of total available vacancies to a new post-recession record

This year’s flood of graduates will have significantly more positions to choose from than last year’s university leavers, which has helped lift the number of total available vacancies to a new post-recession record.

According to the latest UK Job Market Report from, there were 15,825 graduate-specific advertised vacancies in May 2015, up 16.3 percent on the 13,610 available a year ago. This has contributed to the simultaneous rise in the total number of advertised positions across the UK. Last month saw 1,058,425 available advertised positions, 2.4 percent above the 1,033,435 recorded in April and 29.3 percent above the 818,471 recorded in May 2014.

But the boom in entry level roles, combined with more lower-paid and part-time positions, also helped push down advertised salaries to a ten-month low. May saw advertised salaries fall 0.8 percent month-on-month to £34,002, following on from dips of 0.7 percent in April and 0.3 percent in March in the third consecutive month of average advertised salary reductions. Compared to the average of £34,549 six months before, May’s advertised salaries were 1.6 percent lower on average.

In a significant post-recession shift, workers may currently be better off staying in their positions and negotiating a pay-rise, rather than switching companies. While Adzuna data on advertised salaries is showing stagnation, the most recent ONS Labour Market Statistics report increasing wage packets – suggesting that companies are spending more on their existing employees and less on attracting experienced workers.

Table 1:

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, comments:“A wave of freshly-minted graduates are about to join the jobs market, and the number of vacancies has risen, affording them more opportunities. Employers are clearly keen to build their junior staff. It’s a sign that British businesses are gearing up for the future – we’re moving beyond the short-term firefighting tactics of the early recovery and into steady investment in our future talent.

“Of course, there is a knock-on effect on average advertised salaries. A surge in entry-level positions brings with it a lower average advertised salary for May. But we can’t lay this salary shrinkage entirely at the door of a growth in junior employment. The drop in May’s advertised salaries brings us to three months of consecutive salary reduction, which also reflects a shift to more lower-paid and part-time roles. Even with falling prices, which have made consumer goods more affordable in the short term, weakening wages mean people are unlikely to be feeling better off. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that in-work salaries for existing employees are improving, but it’s still a worrying trend, and we need to keep a watchful eye on future developments.”

Despite a growing number of vacancies, competition for jobs will still be serious for the 350,000+ graduates about to enter the world of work. As of May, there are 3.98 graduate applicants for every entry-level position, meaning competition for jobs is 9.2 percent lower than last year. Compared to a new post-recession low of just 0.72 UK jobseekers per vacancy, it’s over five times harder for graduates to get a foot on the first rung of the employment ladder than it is for the average UK employee to find a new job once in the world of work.

Over half of all newly-created entry-level openings were in London and the South East. Even in the face of this wave of new opportunities, competition is still fiercest in these areas – there are more than 35 applicants for every graduate position in these high-growth, high-salary regions. However, as employers compete for the best young talent, graduate salaries are strengthening. The average advertised salary for a graduate position was £25,129 in May 2015, down 0.9 percent from the £25,369 advertised in April, but 2.8 percent higher than the £24,439 average recorded in May last year.

Andrew Hunter comments: “The road ahead might look tough for UK graduates, but they’re actually better off than last year’s cohort in terms of range of opportunities, salaries, and competition. Ever-hungry for talent, London is pulling in graduates even faster than it can create vacancies, driving up competition for jobs to daunting heights. “The class of 2015 are following in the footsteps of the graduates that faced the recession, marching out into the cold to take their chances. The situation is sunnier for this year’s graduates, but they can still learn from the lessons of their recession-toughened counterparts: it’s important to gain experience wherever possible as a fresh graduate.”

Graduates at some of the UK’s best universities might want to think twice before moving further afield to find employment. Oxford has come out on top of the UK in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2014-15, and the city also has the fourth-lowest job competition in the UK with just 0.17 job applicants for every available position.Similarly successful universities also populate the top ten best cities to find a job, like Manchester (0.33), Bristol (0.32), Exeter (0.24) and Cambridge – the second-best university in the UK, but the best place to find a job with 0.09 applicants for every advertised job vacancy.

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, explains:“Graduates need to be careful of gravitating towards London simply because it’s the largest nearby object – shooting for the stars doesn’t necessarily mean rocketing all the way down the M1. Our research shows several other cities with booming economies desperate to employ bright young minds. Cambridge currently has over ten jobs for every applicant, and also houses England’s home-grown tech industry in the ‘Silicon Fen’. Oxford, Exeter and Bristol likewise have very favourable rates of job competition. The urge to break new ground is understandable – but it’s important to be tactical about the next step after graduation. Sometimes the best move you can make is just a few streets away.”

Average advertised salaries in the Travel sector have bounced back in time for the summer holidays, coming in at £25,789 in May 2015. This is a healthy 11.9 percent increase on the average £23,054 offered in May last year.

Table 2: Biggest improvers – job sectors by average salary

Andrew Hunter continues: “While the wage recovery might have stalled, the longer-term trend is clearly still pushing us further and further away from the recession. Compared to last summer, people are definitely better off and more confident in their employment – a wave of good feeling that the Travel and Leisure industries are going to be keen to capitalise on.”

Energy, Oil & Gas Jobs continue to plunge in terms of advertised salary in May, falling by 11 percent to just £41,901 compared to the £48,080 average on offer in the same month last year. Legal (+1.1 percent) and Sales (+1.7 percent) jobs are new entrants to the weakest advertised pay growth rankings.

Table 3: Worst improvers – job sectors by average salary

Salary growth in Yorkshire and the Humber triple that of London

Year-on-year growth for advertised salaries has surged ahead in Yorkshire and the Humber to reach 10.9 percent in May, over triple that of London (+3.4 percent), and nearly double the UK average of 5.6 percent. The next largest growth was in the North East (+8.2 percent), followed by the East Midlands (+7.5 percent). Scotland (+1.2 percent), Northern Ireland (+2.0 percent) and London (+3.4 percent) still linger behind. Salary growth in Northern Ireland lies well behind the pack (3.9 percent), while Scotland still hasn’t found its feet despite showing overwhelming political unity. Though not in quite as bad a shape as the other two regions at the bottom of the pecking order, London’s year-on-year salary growth (4.9 percent) is still well below the 6.9 percent UK average. This is the weakest annual salary growth that London has seen since September 2014.


Table 4: Biggest improvers – UK regions by average salary

Andrew Hunter concludes: “The big pay packets are still lurking around London, but the average isn’t necessarily representative of the kinds of jobs available to graduates – not everyone wants to be an investment banker. Instead, graduates would do well to look to the North. The impressive increases in salaries around Yorkshire and the North East could offer excellent prospects for a career-starting position. “Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that competition for jobs is also generally higher in the North than the South. This is part and parcel of their powerful salary growth. Graduates in high-demand areas like engineering and IT should be confident in carving out their own path: don’t let the prospect of competition get in the way of your job hunt.”

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