Last reviewed 14 January 2020

The entry-level jobs market is stagnant with only public sector and charity employers planning to substantially increase vacancies this year according to the Pulse Survey 2020 carried out by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE).

The survey aims to take the temperature of the student labour market mid-season with respondents representing some of the UK’s largest employers of early talent and covering a wide range of industries.

ISE Chief Executive Stephen Isherwood 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.”

Employers are planning to increase their graduate vacancies by just 3% this year, the survey found. This is in sharp contrast to this time in 2019, when employers were predicting 18% growth in graduate numbers, and with ISE’s end-of-year survey when it reported a 10% increase.

Recent Government announcements regarding an increase in expenditure on police recruitment and in the NHS may have influenced the 14% increase in graduate vacancies in the charity and public sector which has prevented the graduate labour market from shrinking further.

Employers also told the survey that they are increasing vacancies onto apprenticeships and school leaver programmes by just 2%.

Last year they reported an increase of 7% which suggests to the ISE that the growth of non-graduate numbers that had been stimulated by the Apprenticeship Levy is peaking.

Comment by Danny Done, Managing Director at Portfolio Group

Recruiting for graduate positions can be an effective way for an employer to diversify their workforce and encourage the inclusion of fresh ideas. Therefore, private organisations may find themselves disadvantaged by reducing their interest in graduate hires.

This downturn mirrors the overall drop in hiring confidence that is believed to be affecting the UK economy.

As the uncertainty over post-Brexit staffing levels continues, employers may be less inclined to invest the extra time and money into developing graduates, instead favouring the degree of certainty that often comes with hiring an experienced candidate.