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Encouraging signs for job-seeking graduates

THE number of opportunities for graduates remains in decline, but not by as much as previously expected. And for those hoping to enter the City after university, prospects remain good, according to the latest report from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).

As I have argued in this column before, the City remains an excellent place to forge a career provided you can get a foot on the ladder. The remuneration packages on offer are certainly attractive – even for the most recent graduates.

The AGR report – which quizzes top-flight City organisations such as Citigroup, Allen & Overy and Nomura – highlights the starting salary for investment banking or fund management as the best available for graduates during 2009. The median starting salary for these sectors was £38,250, an increase of £3,250 compared with 2008. That compares extremely favourably with the bulk of graduate salaries, of which almost half fall into the £22,001 to £26,000 bracket. I even heard this week of one young trader at a well-known brokerage who had scooped £1.5m as his first ever bonus. Not bad for someone who left university two years ago.

The wider picture presented by the report is also encouraging. While the number of graduate vacancies has fallen by 8.9 per cent during the 2008/09 recruitment season, AGR said the market had begun to turn the corner with the drop nowhere close to the 24.9 per cent contraction predicted six months ago.

It found that in 2009 the graduate vacancy market was dominated by accountancy and professional services with 18.2 per cent of jobs available for university leavers. Investment bank or fund management vacancies represented 14.9 per cent of the total.

The banking or financial services category has been hit by the global credit crunch and banking crisis, with the number of available jobs in the sector slipping to fifth place in the rankings. Law firm vacancies also fell during the year. This latest research, however, shows staggering gains for investment bank and fund management vacancies, standing at third in the rankings now compared with seventh during the summer with just 5.5 per cent of the total compared with the 14.9 per cent now.

Together with yesterday’s latest jobs report from Morgan McKinley, the data provides an encouraging picture for City job seekers.