By Marcus Leach

The number of graduates applying for each graduate job has reached the highest number ever recorded by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), which published the summer edition of its bi-annual survey today.

The number of applications for each graduate job now stands at 83 on average. By comparison, the average number of graduate applications per vacancy was 69 in 2010, 49 in 2009 and 31 in 2008.

However, the survey shows that graduate vacancies are predicted to increase by 2.6% this year. This follows an increase of 8.9% in 2010, and signals sustained recovery of the graduate recruitment market.

The average starting salary has also increased slightly (by 2%) to £25,500, the first increase since 2008.

Carl Gilleard, Chief Executive of the AGR, said: “There are some very encouraging signs for graduates. Not only have starting salaries increased, albeit slightly, the number of vacancies continues to increase which can only be seen as a good sign. I am cautiously optimistic about today’s findings, which provides a welcome indication that the graduate recruitment market is beginning to overcome the impact of the recession.

“Those of our members who took part in the survey received a total of 777,457 applications since the start of the 2011 recruitment campaign. It is challenging and time-consuming for recruiters to sift through these applications, especially as the survey shows that the overall quality has increased. Recruiters have developed a variety of methods for dealing with all the applications, such as online testing and assessment centres.

“My advice for graduates is to make sure you reflect on what you have learnt — both at university and in an extra-curricular capacity — and be able to articulate it in your applications and at interviews; think about what transferrable skills you might’ve gained and how you’d apply your knowledge and experience to different situations. If you are able to get into that mode of thinking, you will be immediately more attractive to employers.”

The AGR is the leading voice of graduate recruiters and developers and its bi-annual survey provides the most extensive and detailed insight into the state of the graduate jobs market. Today’s edition is based on the responses of 202 AGR members in the UK across 20 sectors which will provide an estimated 21,507 graduate vacancies in 2011. The research was carried out by education research specialists CFE between April and May 2011.