Wednesday, 2 January 2013

What will the graduate jobs market be like in 2013?

Happy 2013, everyone.

Right, niceties over then, let's get on with the serious business of writing something people will take issue with. What's the graduate jobs market going to be like in 2013?

My regular reader will know that, ostensibly, I dislike making predictions, but for all that I seem rather fond of making them anyway. So, with the economy - both nationally and internationally - still pretty grim, it's time to examine how I think things might look this year.

As always, anything I say that is verifiable is based on information that is now out of date, and anything that is timely is merely speculative. This is the basis of all economic and labour market forecasting - the difference here is that I admit it up front. Oh yes, you can trust me to be honestly inaccurate.

The main trend is uncertainty, and that makes businesses reluctant to invest, to hire - and also to lay off staff. That said, business seems slightly more positive than they did at the end of 2011.

At present, manufacturing has not had a very good 2012 and the signs are that output will probably have been slightly down on 2011 - just. Confidence is down, although the energy and aerospace sectors seem to be doing better than most. Construction had another disappointing year. All in all, this means we're probably not going to see a dramatic recovery in science and engineering employment and consequently the jobs market for graduates in those disciplines is not likely to see a great change. Indeed, construction employers fear more job losses, which means that there is unlikely to be much respite for architects and civil engineers still suffering a battering since the start of recession. Aerospace would seem to be a better bet for prospective engineers at the moment, and consultancy also reports better conditions (that is probably more relevant for graduates with some experience). But there are some signs that some large firms might increase R&D spending this year (that would be more favourable for postgraduates).

In the finance and services industries, IT may see some growth - welcome for graduates in the discipline. Marketing seems to be doing reasonably well - the field has not done badly since recession and seems to be recruiting healthy numbers of graduates. As a whole, the finance industry is not expecting robust growth - activity is below pre-recession levels and so we don't expect a big upturn in recruitment. The public sector, of course, is expecting a difficult 2013.

In terms of recruitment, overall, things are expected to be broadly flat in the first half of the year. Firms are tentatively hoping for growth in the next 18 months or so and are consequently trying to keep skills, and most are maintaining graduate schemes to make sure that they don't experience skills shortages and to ensure succession planning. There are even some skills shortages in technical fields and some firms are reporting that the economy is making it hard to recruit as staff don't want to move.

Salaries are not expected to move much - although areas of skills shortages may see pay increases.

All in all, this is a very long winded way of saying 'I don't expect much to change in 2013' - or at least in the first half of the year. In fact, with recovery remaining slow and rocky, the current graduate jobs market will probably be the new status quo for the next three or four years - the comparatively benign market of 2007 being just a distant memory. So, when the DLHE data is released in June, I'd expect to see an unemployment rate between 8 and 9%, and starting salaries across the UK just below £20k. We may start to see a widening of disparities between regional labour markets, but that's a topic for another blog.

So, everyone have a good 2013 and look forward to a hard but rewarding year of helping graduates to enjoy good careers.

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