HECSU’s What Do Graduates Do? reports that, over the past year, graduate unemployment has risen 1% to 8.9%, representing 21,020 students who graduated in 2009 and were known to be without work in January 2010. The last time it reached this level was 1993 (10.5%).
For the previous year’s students, 2008 graduates, unemployment had increased 2.4% to 7.9%, demonstrating that the rate is slowing down.
Charlie Ball, deputy research director at HECSU, said: "Graduate unemployment hasn’t risen as high as we feared and is some way off the levels of the last recession in 1992, when it reached 11.6%. Prospects for graduates in the short-term look brighter, with unemployment, as a result of the downturn, likely to have peaked and next year we expect to see a decline. However, with the anticipated public-sector job cuts the future in the medium term looks less clear."
The public sector was one of the very few areas to continue to recruit through the recession, fuelling worries over the impact the jobs cuts will have on graduate unemployment.
While recruitment in the private sector suffered, the public sector remained buoyant. Employment for social and healthcare professionals both increased – 0.5% to 5.2% and 0.2% to 14.8% respectively.
Recruitment to the retail sector bucked the trend with 14.4% of those in employment working in this sector – a 3.8% increase from the previous year. Marketing was the only other type of work in the private sector that had increased its graduate intake – a rise of 0.1% to 4.2%.
Graduates that also faired well, with unemployment levels below average (8.9%), were those with degrees in geography (7.4% unemployed) and psychology (8.3%).
IT was hit hardest with unemployment increasing from 13.7% to 16.3%. Similarly, those entering construction and engineering struggled, particularly within architecture and building, mechanical engineering, and civil engineering – rising from 8.5% to 10.9%, 10.1% to 11.8% and 7% to 11.9% respectively. In addition, media studies graduates struggled to find jobs, with unemployment rates increasing 2.6% to 14.6%.
As anticipated, the recession has motivated more students to seek further study or training and there are a higher proportion of students taking this option than are unemployed – an increase of 1.3% to 15.4%. Those entering post-graduate courses increased the most, from 6.6% to 8.1%. Students studying for a teaching qualification dropped slightly (0.1%) to 2.4%, but it was a popular choice for maths students (8.4%). Investment in education continues to be vital for the 20% of accountancy graduates who were working and studying – 12% higher than the national average.
While the number securing graduate-level jobs fell 3.3% to 62.4%, salaries continued to rise, but only marginally. Graduates can expect a mean salary of £19,695, £18 higher than the previous year. London reported a slightly higher salary of £22,228 and Scotland held up well at £19,965 – higher than any other region outside London. By subject, graduates who studied Chinese reported the highest starting salary of £24,540 and fine art graduates the lowest, £14,625.
Commenting on the figures, Donna Miller, director of HR for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, said: "These are tough times for graduates, but there are still jobs out there so they shouldn’t lose heart. For example, at many companies, Enterprise Rent-A-Car included, applications for graduate recruitment schemes are accepted all year round.
"However, as graduate positions in some sectors become more limited, it is important that today’s university leavers think about their future career with an open mind and consider ways in which they can stand out from other applicants. Graduates still applying for their first job should maximise their time to make themselves more attractive to employers.
"Work experience and internships are both very valuable uses of time, and are often paid. They can provide great experience for candidates, develop a relationship with a company and acquire crucial skills that can be transferred elsewhere.
"When we hire we look for savvy candidates, and often that requires skills that aren’t taught at university. Work experience and internships are a great way to develop those skills."
This article was first published on hrmagazine.co.uk