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Grad job openings triple year-on-year

UK hiring is back at pre-pandemic levels, but how is the graduate jobs market faring? And what do the job prospects for the Class of 2021 look like? Our latest jobs research takes a look at the hiring landscape for those finishing uni this summer.

It’s good news for grads. A more hopeful jobs market awaits those entering the workforce this summer with job vacancies tripling year-on-year and salaries starting to rise, though competition for roles remains steep.

Our data shows there were 13,543 graduate job vacancies on offer between 5th – 11th July ‘21. That’s up +191% from the 4,647 on offer in the same week last year and up +351% from the low point of just 3,004 grad openings available last June. It marks 10 consecutive weeks of growth in advertised graduate jobs. 

Graduate pay is also edging up, with average advertised salaries +10% higher year-on-year at £24,402.


Graph 1: Weekly graduate job vacancies, Jan 2020 – July 2021


Grad hiring still below pre-pandemic levels

Despite the recent recovery, the graduate sector has been one of the slowest to recover from the pandemic. Employers have fallen back on hiring senior staff with proven skills over the last year rather than taking on entry-level staff. Many employers simply stopped creating entry-level positions, hiring instead for senior leaders to help steer them through the pandemic storms, as well as filling urgent open roles. Graduate hiring remains -5% below the pre-pandemic levels seen at the start of 2020, when weekly graduate vacancies averaged 14,200 jobs. But things seem to be bouncing back just in time for the class of 2021. Our data shows 10 consecutive weeks of growth in graduate hiring. Vacancies are finally returning to healthy levels. Over the same time period, total UK advertised job vacancies have grown 33%.

The only other sectors still experiencing depressed hiring volumes are Energy, Oil & Gas (-19%), Healthcare & Nursing (-8%) and Legal (-5%). The Travel sector is also still struggling. Just 221 openings are on offer for Travel agents, just 33 vacancies are available on cruise ships, and hiring for Cabin Crew is all but on pause. This June saw British Airways put thousands of workers back on furlough as the airline continues to struggle with lower travel volumes, though Ryanair continues to hire for limited opportunities.


Graph 2: The recovery in graduate jobs compared to all jobs – by change in advertised vacancies compared to pre-pandemic levels (average of first 7 weeks of 2020)


Increased competition means securing a role remains hard

Despite recovering graduate job opportunities, it remains challenging for the Class of 2021 to secure a role due to increased competition for jobs. Last year’s caution has left a hangover. Many graduates from last year are vying with this year’s cohort for open positions. More generally, youth unemployment remains high and could get higher still when furlough wraps up in September. 

Alongside the thousands of grads looking for a job this summer, many who graduated in 2020 are still looking for employment. Data from the ONS show average unemployment among ‘recent grads’ (those graduating within the last 5 years) climbed to a peak of 12.0% in Q3 2020.

On top of this, the transformation of the jobs market since the pandemic means the Class of 2021 are facing competition from remote grads, who could be based overseas. 1st July 2021 also saw the UK Government launch a new Post-Study Work Visa allowing international students to find employment in the UK after their studies.

Around 560,000 UK students are set to graduate this year according to figures from UCAS, meaning at least 40 graduates will be competing for every available opportunity. Factoring in additional competition from last year’s cohort, overseas students, and remote workers, the true figure is likely to be considerably higher.

But there is reason for optimism. Increased graduate hiring signals growing confidence among UK companies and a desire to train up the next generation of talent. And overall Adzuna searches for graduate roles have increased 353% year-on-year.



The companies still hiring

Grads looking for their first job may want to look at growth areas of the jobs market. Focusing a job search in these sectors could be one way of maximising the chance to secure a great new role

Broadly, grad opportunities are more plentiful in sectors which have held up better to the pandemic. Sectors to consider are Logistics & Warehousing (where jobs are up +165% on pre-pandemic levels), Manufacturing (+132%), Trade & Construction (+88%), and IT (+34%). The Big Four also continue to hire for grads.

Five top employers still hiring for graduate jobs are construction firm Galliford Try (262 jobs), engineering company AECOM (248 jobs), KPMG (110 jobs), e-commerce company The Hut Group (31 jobs) and Deloitte (multiple).

Table 1: Top companies currently hiring for UK grads

CompanyLive Graduate Jobs 13th July 2021Graduate job roles on offer
Galliford Try262Town planners, engineers, communications, surveyors & more
AECOM248Surveyors, geophysicists, engineers, digital consultants & others
KPMG110+Consultants, auditors, cyber specialists, tax, legal & others
The Hut Group31Business Intelligence, Finance, Chemists, Marketing, E-Commerce, Warehouse Operations & more
DeloitteStill accepting applications for 2021 (typically take on 1,500 grads a year)Real estate, Audit, Consulting & more


London & South East home to half the opportunities

Our data also reveals a clear regional disparity in opportunities. Nearly half (49%) of the graduate jobs on offer are clustered in London and the South East, accounting for 6,676 of the 13,543 available. The North West also offers over a thousand positions (1,425).

By comparison, grads searching for employment in Northern Ireland, Wales and the North East have a harder challenge, with fewer than 300 openings on offer in each region.

Table 2: Advertised graduate vacancies and what they pay -- by region

RegionLive Graduate Jobs 13th July 2021Average Advertised Salary
South East England2,817£25,021
North West England1,425£23,264
Eastern England979£22,821
South West England883£24,295
West Midlands791£23,259
Yorkshire and the Humber673£22,348
East Midlands491£23,422
North East England262£23,974
Northern Ireland92£22,551



💡 On the hunt for a graduate job? Check out the thousands of grad vacancies currenly available on Adzuna!