Graduates are facing a dearth of opportunities in the labour market, as jobs aimed at university leavers have plunged by almost a quarter compared to pre-pandemic levels, while paid internships have declined by 41%1. England’s universities are due to reopen for face-to-face learning next week, but final year students entering the home straight of their courses are set to graduate into a decidedly chilly jobs market. An analysis of vacancies aimed at new graduates on Indeed shows postings are down almost a quarter (24%) compared to this time in 2019, and 13% down on 2020. Meanwhile, postings for paid internship roles have fallen by 41% compared to 2019, and remain 35% down on last year.

Although job postings are now just 4% down on pre-pandemic levels in the labour market as a whole4, employers appear to have scaled back graduate recruitment, either to save costs or because of a preference for more experienced staff who require less training and may be better able to work remotely. Indeed’s data shows that the proportion of graduate jobs mentioning remote work has fallen to just 9% of posts, declining from the peak of 17% in February this year2, suggesting that more employers are planning a return to the office. And in a sign that university leavers themselves are grappling with a difficult jobs market, searches for graduate roles are down 14% compared to 2019, and 24% below 2020.

Despite this challenging environment, there are still some employers actively seeking graduates, with the global hygiene firm Rentokil Initial the UK’s most active recruiter of university leavers. Graduates looking for tech roles and sales jobs will find the highest salaries. “Young people have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s economic fallout, and this extends to the market for graduate jobs and internships, both of which remain scarcer than before the crisis. “With the vaccine roll-out firmly on track, and total job postings back to within 4% of their pre-pandemic levels, there are plenty of reasons to hope that the accelerating economic recovery will prompt employers to ramp up graduate recruitment.