After four years of growth, the graduate jobs market has shrunk with the number of vacancies dropping 8% compared to 2015.
According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters Annual Survey, the number available graduate positions fell from 21,427 in 2015 to 19,732 this year.
The sectors with the biggest decrease in opportunities were retails (-16%), engineering (-14%) and construction (-11%).
Last year, the number of graduate jobs had increased by 13% compared to the previous year.
Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the AGR said: “The labour market for young people is shrinking for the first time since the financial crisis, but the composition of the market is also changing as employers invest more in school leaver programmes and apprenticeships.”
Despite the drop in graduate roles, the number of available apprenticeships has increased by 13%. More than one in ten employers said they were repackaging graduate role as apprenticeships due to the incoming apprenticeship levy.
To be introduced in spring 2017, the levy will require all UK companies with a pay bill over £3million a year to make investments in apprenticeships.
Overall, the market for apprenticeships and graduates combined fell by 3% year-on-year.
Isherwood commented: “The uncertainty of Brexit is the single biggest challenge facing recruiters in the year ahead. Competition for shills and the looming Apprenticeship levy are also significant concerns.
“While there remain thousands of vacancies available for university graduates, school leavers will find many more different options open to them for high quality jobs.”