Since the recession started graduates have had a tough time finding jobs with some traditional recruiters curtailing their graduate recruitment programmes.  While companies can reduce recruitment for a time, arguably it’s not sustainable long term.

Graduate unemployment has perhaps been one of the more unpleasant consequences of the economic downturn. Bright young people paying more each year for their education only to find no immediate way to pay it back once they graduate.

However there are some signs that things may be improving, although it’s hard to read too much into one set of figures. But well-known research firm Income Data Services predicts the number of graduate jobs will rise this year.

Historically, the number of graduate vacancies being advertised last year was more or less static, but this year vacancies are set to grow by 8%. While the number of openings may increase, starting salaries are likely to be frozen, perhaps a consequence of employers wanting to keep employment costs as low as possible. Nearly three-quarters of employers surveyed said they were freezing salaries because of worries about the economy. But a job is a job and most likely graduates won’t be too concerned with starting salaries, which some professions start at more than £30,000.

So why the upswing? Clearly it’s not a sign the economy is improving in leaps and bounds. It’s more likely to be due to the fact employers increasingly prefer graduate employees compared to those without qualifications. It’s a structural change in the economy, first seen earlier this year: Graduate jobs at a record high, unqualified jobs at a record low.

We are effectively moving towards a graduate economy, and many think this will improve the long term economic outlook of the country.  The UK has historically seen a chronic shortage of people to fill vacancies requiring a high level of skill despite high unemployment among people in their 20s.

Seen in that light, it’s more likely a rise in graduate vacancies is simply reflecting a growing trend towards employers requiring staff with qualifications.