The number and range of graduate employment opportunities is growing again, but not as quickly as employers had predicted, a national survey has found.
Employers responding to a salaries and vacancies survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters reported more vacancies last academic year, and the trend is expected to continue.
The AGR welcomed the news as a sign that the graduate employment market is continuing to recover from a slump in 1998-99, when vacancies dropped by about a third.
But recovery is slower than expected. Employers say the number of vacancies will rise by only 3.7 per cent by the end of this academic year, compared with a 15 per cent increase predicted by those responding to the association's half-yearly review last year.
The survey, conducted by the Institute of Employment Studies, found employers' skill needs have become more diverse and varied.
Half of companies and organisations could not fill graduate vacancies last year. The sector forecasting the biggest increase in vacancies by the end of this year is banking and finance, and other business services.
A report on the findings says: "This may be a development of the much-talked of 'e-commerce', ie the paradigm shift in the way these businesses organise, operate and expand their operations."
Other industries experiencing recruitment shortfalls include electronic and electrical engineering, food, drink, tobacco, engineering and construction. The biggest recruiting cuts are expected in public services and retail, hotels and catering, and travel and tourism.
The survey found the best-paid graduates could be offered a salary of up to £32,000. Research into what graduates are actually paid found that by the end of this year, the average starting salary could be about £20,000 - an 8.1 per cent increase over last year.
There has also been an increase in the number of opportunities for students to gain work experience, which employers and careers officers agree is an important step towards employment. Two-thirds of employers said they offered paid work experience, typically paying about £230 a week.
Carl Gilleard, AGR chief executive, said the employment market was particularly good for graduates with specialist skills, good general degrees and interpersonal skills. Other graduates were likely to experience a period of temporary employment before finding the right job.