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Graduate employment prospects improving

[private]Graduate employment prospects improving, figures show
Unemployment rate for recent graduates drops for first time since recession
Employment prospects for university leavers are steadily improving and the number in graduate-level jobs reached a record high in 2010, research conducted by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU) has shown.

Graduate unemployment has dropped for the first time since the recession, although it remains at a high rate compared to pre-recession levels and there is still extremely stiff competition for jobs, HESCU warned.

HECSU’s annual What Do Graduates Do? survey of people who left university six month’s previously found that unemployment in this group dropped from 8.9 per cent in 2009 to 8.5 per cent (19,785 graduates) in 2010.

A record number of higher education leavers (100,265 or 63.4 per cent) secured graduate-level jobs in 2010 – a 9.2 per cent increase on the class of 2009. This was reflected in a graduate employment rate rise of 7.9 per cent to 69.7 per cent last year.

This upturn in prospects was driven by a recovery in several sectors, said HESCU. The proportion of graduates working in business and financial services returned to 2008 levels (7.5 per cent), while marketing, sales and advertising was the occupational group that saw the largest percentage jump in graduate recruits – 31 per cent – in 2010.

Unemployment among architecture and building management graduates also fell from 10.9 per cent to 9.5 per cent, as more students in these subject areas found work as quantity and building surveyors, town planners and architectural technicians.

But public spending cuts are already having an impact on the number of graduates securing work in state-funded positions, HESCU warned.

While there was no major decline in those entering the medical or teaching professions, clerical and secretarial posts in local government, public administration and defence were reduced – accounting for 6.8 per cent of graduates employed in 2010, down from 7.9 per cent in 2009.

Charlie Ball, deputy research director at HECSU, said: “While graduate unemployment has fallen, it remains high in comparison to levels reported at the beginning of the recession and graduates still face stiff competition – not just from their peers but also from more recent graduates.

“Slow but sustained economic recovery should be mirrored in the graduate labour market but developments over the next few months will need to be closely monitored,” he added. “Many parts of the graduate employment market remain fragile, and recovery has not spread to all sectors or regions of the country.”

The study also revealed that graduate salaries remained flat, against a backdrop of below-inflation pay awards across the economy. The average graduate salary ranged from £17,720 to £23,335 for those who left university in 2010, with London reporting the highest average salary at £22,480. Scotland saw the greatest annual increase from £19,965 in 2009 to £20,300 in 2010.