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Class of 2021 Faces Shrunken Graduate Job Market

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But a shift back toward in-person work is evident as lockdown eases.

Key points:

  • The share of graduate postings per million job listings on Indeed’s UK website is down 24% from 2019. 
  • The share of internships has also plummeted, down 41% from 2019 levels. 
  • Graduate jobs offering remote work increased during the pandemic, but the trend  appears to be reversing.   

While the UK labour market is getting back on its feet, graduates still face a dearth of opportunities. The pandemic has had a big impact across the labour market. Overall job postings are down, with graduate jobs hit harder than most. 

Graduate job postings lag previous years 

Through 10 May, the share of graduate postings per million job listings on Indeed’s UK website is down 24% from the same day in 2019 and 13% from that date in 2020. Graduate jobs have been underperforming since last spring. Employers have scaled back graduate hiring as they deal with a range of problems, including economic uncertainty and pressure to cut costs. In addition, recruiting and assimilating new employees has been difficult to do remotely. 

Line graph titled “Graduate postings down amid pandemic.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0 to 12000, Indeed tracked the graduate job postings per million jobs on Indeed UK along a horizontal axis ranging from January 1 to May 7, with different coloured lines representing 2019, 2020, and 2021. As of May 7, 2021, the share of graduate postings per million job listings on Indeed’s UK website was down 24% from the same day in 2019 and 13% from that date in 2020. Caption added post-publication.

Internships also scarcer 

Normally, internships offer young people another route into employment, but COVID-19 has hit them too. As of 10 May, the internship share per million job postings was down 41% from the same day in 2019 and 35% from that date in 2020. For employers, internships provide temporary assistance and a potential pipeline for future hires, but are less essential for day-to-day operations. Given the turmoil of the past year, internships have been particularly vulnerable. 

Line graph titled “Internship postings also scarcer.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0 to 4000, Indeed tracked the internship job postings per million jobs on Indeed UK along a horizontal axis ranging from January 1 to May 7 with different coloured lines representing 2019, 2020, and 2021. As of May 7, 2021, the internship share per million job postings was down 41% from the same day in 2019 and 35% from that date in 2020. Caption added post-publication.

A higher share of graduate jobs are remote, but a return to in-person is under way

The share of graduate jobs offering remote work has increased during the pandemic. On average, less than 4% of graduate job postings contained remote work terms like “work from home” and “home-based” before April 2020. The share rose over the following months, peaking at 17% in February 2021 during the third national lockdown. But the remote share fell in March and particularly April, dropping to 9% in that month. 

This suggests more employers are eyeing a return to the office sometime in the foreseeable future. Such a shift is generally likely to benefit graduates since it could allow them to acquire knowledge and skills by working alongside experienced colleagues. It’s hard for employers to instill workplace culture and a sense of team membership in graduates who work remotely. 

Bar chart titled “Share of remote graduate jobs fell sharply in April.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0% to 20%, Indeed compared the share of graduate jobs containing remote search terms along a horizontal axis ranging from January 2019 to April 2021. The share of graduate job postings dropped to 9% in April 2021, from a high of 17% in February 2021. Caption added post-publication.

Remote share dropped across sectors in April

The proportion of graduate job postings mentioning remote work fell across a wide range of sectors in April. But, in several categories, the remote share still exceeded 10%, including software development, accounting, information design & documentation, marketing, human resources and sales. 

Table titled “Remote share dropped across sectors in April.” Indeed compared the percent of graduate jobs mentioning remote or work-from-home in various occupations between March 2021 and April 2021. The biggest change was in software development job postings with a drop of -15% from March to April 2021. Caption added post-publication.

Interest in graduate jobs has dipped

For their part, job seekers seem relatively less keen on graduate positions. As of 10 May, searches for graduate jobs as a share of all searches on Indeed UK were 14% lower through the same date in 2019 and 24% below the same period in 2020. It’s possible that graduates believe the job market is especially difficult now. Job seekers are competing not only with this year’s graduates, but also with last year’s graduates who haven’t found suitable positions yet. As in 2020, staying in school longer, for example, to get a master’s degree, may be a popular alternative while waiting for the graduate job market to improve. 

Line chart titled “Interest in graduate jobs down slightly.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0 to 8000, Indeed tracked graduate job searches per million searches on Indeed along a horizontal axis ranging from January 1 to May 10, with different coloured lines representing 2019, 2020, and 2021. As of May 10, 2021, searches for graduate jobs as a share of all searches on Indeed UK were 14% lower through the same date in 2019 and 24% below the same period in 2020. Caption added post-publication.

Conclusion

Young people have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s economic fallout. In particular, the market for graduate jobs and internships remains scarcer than before the crisis. The hope is that a sustained economic recovery will boost employer confidence and prompt them to expand graduate hiring. 

Methodology

We define graduate job postings as those in which “graduate” appears in the title. We identify job postings as open to remote work if the job title or description includes terms like “remote work”, “home-based”, “work from home”, or similar terms, or if the location is explicitly listed as remote. These postings include both permanently and temporarily remote jobs, though employers often don’t specify. For the share of remote postings by sector, a sector must have had a minimum of 100 total postings in both March and April 2021 to be included. Interest in graduate jobs is defined as any search containing “graduate”. 

We define internship job postings as those in which “intern” or “internship” appear in the title.