An estimated 500,000 British graduates are about to join the queue for jobs this year, but the market has become tougher with employers raising the bar for minimum education qualifications.
Most employers in Britain will not be recruiting graduates with lower than a 2:1 pass degree, equivalent to a second class honours degree with 60 per cent marks or above.
Latest research by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) reveals that eight out of 10 British employers have slapped a ban on recruiting anyone without a 2:1 degree because of the current job squeeze.
The research, based on a survey of the job market for 2010, shows that at present there are 69 candidates on an average for each job. The survey, which took in 199 of the country's largest graduate recruiters, said that they were offering 17,920 graduate jobs this year, 6.9 percent fewer than last year.
This year, 686,600 graduates have applied for jobs. They include 420,000 from the class of 2010. The remaining are those left unemployed from the class of 2009 and another 40,000 who failed to find jobs for two years in a row, the survey says.
The AGR report expects the job market to plummet further.
The sectors facing the biggest drop in vacancies include fast-moving consumer goods -- supermarket and consumer electronic goods -- (down 45.4 per cent), IT and retail (both down 31.4 per cent). However, sectors seeing a rise in vacancies include banking and financial services (up 72 per cent after a massive collapse last year) and insurance (up 53.3 per cent).
Chief executive of AGR Carl Gilleard said on the company website: "Recruiters are under intense pressure this year dealing with a huge number of applications from graduates for a diminishing pool of jobs."
On the issue of the raised bar on educational qualifications, he said: "We are encouraging our members to look beyond the degree classification when narrowing down the field of candidates to manageable proportions."
Universities minister David Willetts posted his reaction to the AGR survey on a government news website, News Distribution Service: "The job market remains challenging for new graduates, as it does for others. But a degree is still a good investment in the long term, and graduates have a key role to play in helping Britain out of the recession."