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Graduates Face a Competitive Job Market

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Share of graduate jobs remains below pre-pandemic levels.

Key points:

  • Though showing improvement on last year, the share of graduate postings per million job listings on Indeed’s UK website is down 23% from 2019 and 21% from 2018. 
  • The share of internships also remains well down, 29% below 2019 levels. 
  • Searches for graduate jobs are at similar levels to previous years, suggesting greater competition among jobseekers for each role.   

The UK economy has been rebounding strongly amid reopening and job postings on Indeed UK have now recovered to well above pre-pandemic levels. However, the share of graduate jobs remains lower than in the years preceding the pandemic, with higher education leavers continuing to face a competitive market. 

Graduate job postings still below pre-pandemic levels 

Though showing signs of modest improvement on 2020’s lows, the share of graduate job postings on Indeed’s UK website remains down on levels prevailing before the pandemic. Through 31 August, the share of graduate postings per million job listings on Indeed UK is up 11% from 2020, but is still 23% below the same day in 2019 and 21% lower than 2018. 

Employers have reined in graduate hiring amid the pandemic as they have grappled with economic uncertainty and pressure to cut costs. Recruiting and assimilating new employees has also been difficult to do with many businesses operating remotely. Though the reopening of the economy has led to hiring shortages in a number of sectors, this has yet to benefit graduates to a large extent. Many of the sectors currently facing the biggest bottlenecks are not typically big employers of graduates. Even where graduates may be suitable recruits, the investment of time and resources needed to train them may not be an immediate priority for some short-staffed businesses.  

Chart titled “Graduate postings down amid pandemic.” Indeed compared the share of graduate job postings per million jobs on Indeed UK, between 01 January 2018, and 31 August 2021. The share of graduate postings is tracking lower in 2021 compared with 2018 and 2019, though it has recently overtaken the 2020 trend.  

Internships have sunk even further 

Normally, internships offer young people another route into employment, but COVID-19 has hit them too. As of 31 August, the internship share per million job postings was down 29% from the same day in 2019 and 40% from that date in 2018. 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. 

Chart titled “Internship postings also scarcer.” Indeed compared the share of internship job postings per million jobs on Indeed UK, between 01 January 2018, and 31 August 2021. The share of internship postings is tracking lower in 2021 compared with 2018 and 2019 and is now slightly below the 2020 trend.  

Interest in graduate jobs similar to previous years

At the same time as there are fewer opportunities, people are still searching for graduate jobs at similar levels to previous years. As of 31 August, searches for graduate jobs as a share of all searches on Indeed UK were 5% higher than in 2019 and 6% below 2018. That suggests increased competition for available roles. 

This year’s graduates are also competing with those of 2020 who didn’t find a graduate job last year. Some of the class of 2020 responded to the drop in opportunities by staying in education longer, for example to get postgraduate degrees

Chart titled “Interest in graduate jobs similar to previous years.” Indeed compared the share of graduate job searches per million jobs on Indeed UK, between 01 January 2018, and 31 August 2021. The share of graduate searches is running at similar levels to previous years; currently slightly above 2019 and 2020 but slightly below 2018.  

Conclusion

Though the wider labour market has been recovering in recent months, graduate jobs have yet to regain their share of job postings seen in the years preceding the pandemic. That spells ongoing high competition for graduate jobs, as higher education leavers continue to actively search for roles. Graduates will be hoping that market conditions begin to improve in 2022 as some of the factors holding it back through the pandemic hopefully start to fade. 

Methodology

We define graduate job postings as those in which “graduate” appears in the title. We define internship job postings as those in which “intern” or “internship” appear in the title. Graduate searches are those that include the term “graduate”.