LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Many British graduates are facing a bleak future as employers cut down on their intake of university leavers because of the economic downturn, according to research published on Wednesday.
The Graduate Market in 2009, a study based on graduate vacancies and starting salaries at 100 top employers, found that the intake this year was to be reduced by 17 percent as posts were either cut or left unfilled.
"These swinging cuts in graduate recruitment at Britain's best-known and most sought-after employers are very bad news for anyone leaving university this summer," said Martin Birchall, Managing Director of the report's authors, High Fliers Research.
"There is understandable panic on campus that this is shaping up to be one of the worst years of the last two decades to be graduating from university."
The study reported that during two recruitment rounds in 2008 and 2009, employers had planned to take on 40,000 graduates. However, 7,000 of these had now been axed.
To make matters worse, the report said, employers had reduced the number of graduate jobs they had planned to offer in 2008, hiring about 18 percent less than was originally planned.
Investment banking, retailing, accountancy and professional services, and the engineering and industrial sectors have been the hardest hit.
Only the public sector and the armed forces have provided an increase in the number of graduate vacancies.
"For those who have yet to begin job hunting, the chances of landing a last-minute place on a graduate program now seem very slim," Birchall said.
The grim picture has already got final year students worried. Only 13 percent of more than 1,000 undergraduates quizzed last month were confident they would get the job they wanted, while a half said they would have to take up any offer.
Around 300,000 undergraduates are expected to complete their studies this summer and unemployment is already growing fastest among 18 to 24-year-olds, with nearly 600,000 out of work in the three months to October, according to the latest official data.
On Saturday, the government said it was urging companies to give temporary jobs to thousands of students finishing their courses this year to counter the fall in graduate recruitment.
The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills said high street bank Barclays and U.S. software firm Microsoft had already agreed to offer up to three months' work to graduates, although planning for the intern scheme was at an early stage.
The proposal follows the announcement of 140 million pounds ($203 million) of government funding for 35,000 extra apprenticeships next year.
Editing by Steve Addison