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85 applicants - or more - per graduate job

There could be a four per cent fall in jobs available to new grads this year, according to new research

Top employers are receiving around 85 applications for every graduate vacancy amid an expected drop in the number of jobs available, research suggests.

In some cases around 211 graduates are chasing each opening, according to a new report.

The Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) annual summer survey reveals that leading companies are predicting that there will be a four per cent fall in the overall number of jobs available for new graduates this year compared to last.

But while some industries are taking on fewer staff, others are hiring more graduates, the survey adds.

University leavers hoping to land a position at a consulting or business services firm may find it easier to find work, with a 36 per cent increase in the number of vacancies available in 2012/12 compared to 2011/12.

At the same time, energy, water and utility companies are seeing a 31 per cent increase in openings and IT and telecommunications firms are upping their available jobs by 15 per cent.

But the banking and financial services are closing their doors to new graduates with a 45 per cent drop in the number of vacancies available, the survey found.

The survey, which questioned more than 200 leading graduate employers, found that on average firms are receiving 85.3 applications for every expected opening, up from 73 in the 2011/12 recruitment season.

Firms dealing with 'fast-moving consumer goods' - low-cost items such as toiletries and groceries - are the most in demand, the report found, with these companies receiving 211 applications on average for every job.

Positions at investment banks or fund managers and in retail are also sought after, with these industries receiving 135.3 and 130.2 applications on average respectively for each vacancy.

The report also suggests that more jobs are opening up in certain areas of the country, outside of London, with an increase in vacancies expected in the South East, the West Midlands and Scotland, it said.

And more firms are looking at applicants' backgrounds when hiring, the AGR said.

Just over one in six (16 per cent) of the companies questioned said they will be monitoring socio-economic background this year compared to 13 per cent at this point last year.

Stephen Isherwood, the new AGR chief executive, said: "With these results in mind, my message to students: is do not despair; graduate employers are broadly hiring the same number of graduates as they did before the credit crunch hit. Be competitive and strategic in your approach to applications - and keep persevering."

He suggested that students should remember that work experience can be invaluable when trying to find a job.

The new report paints a slightly worse picture than a study published two weeks ago which found that job prospects have improved for those leaving university this summer, with a rise in the number of graduate positions available.