The number of job vacancies for graduates has fallen after years of growth, with construction, retail and engineering particularly hit, a new study shows.
There were 19,732 positions this year compared with over 21,400 in 2015, said the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).
Some employers said they were "repackaging" graduate posts as higher apprenticeships ahead of the new apprenticeship levy which comes into force next 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.
"The uncertainty of Brexit is the single biggest challenge facing recruiters in the year ahead. Competition for skills 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."
A Department for Education spokesman said: "Graduates continue to have stronger employment outcomes, earning on average £9,500 a year more than non-graduates.Last year the vast majority of graduates - 93.9% - were in employment or further study with a consistent increase over the last four years, up 3.6%.
"Our Higher Education reforms are focusing universities on further improving graduate outcomes, by delivering excellent teaching which gives students the skills that both they and employers need."