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UK – Graduate unemployment rate falls to lowest level in 39 years

17 October 2018

The unemployment rate for graduates six months after leaving university fell to 5.1% this year, the lowest since the 1979 survey when it was 4.9%, according to a study from Prospects, a provider of skills, education, care and support.

Prospects’ data also found that employment increased from 74.2% to 76.6% (184,295) as 4,540 more graduates found jobs compared to last year. The proportion of employed graduates in professional-level roles also increased, from 71.4% to 73.9%.

Skills shortages across many industries appear to have helped job prospects with increases in those entering professional jobs across all degree subjects. More graduates qualified in high demand subjects, such as IT, engineering, accountancy and marketing, went into their vocationally linked roles as a result.

The skills shortage also appears to have impacted salaries as the average starting salary for graduates increased from £21,776 to £22,399 this year. All regions saw a rise, with the Midlands, East of England and Northern Ireland seeing the largest percentage increases.

“Skills shortages have been a feature of the graduate labour market since the recovery from the last recession,” Charlie Ball, Head of Higher Education Intelligence at Prospects said. “There are signs that this may have helped to fuel a modest rise in salaries as well as job prospects.”

While there were more graduates on permanent, full-time contracts after six months (61.8%) and fixed-term contracts of at least 12 months held steady, there were increasing numbers on zero hours contracts, up to 4% of those employed, from 3.6% last year.

Retail employs the highest number of graduates in non-graduate roles. While 12.8% of graduates went to work in retail, around two-thirds of them were in jobs below the professional level.

“As a linked issue, although zero hours contracts do not represent a large proportion of the graduate labour market, they are growing in importance, and that growth should be monitored,” Ball said.


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