Thousands of graduates are still struggling to find work despite a drop in unemployment amongst university leavers, new research suggests.
Around one in 12 (8.5%) of those who graduated in 2010, some 19,785 in total, were still without a job six months later, down from 8.9% in 2009, according to the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU).
This is the first fall since the start of the recession but graduate unemployment is still higher than before the economic crisis began, the study says.
In 2007, before the recession, it stood at 5.5%. There were around 20,000 fewer students graduating in 2007 than in 2010, HECSU said.
Charlie Ball, HECSU deputy research director, 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." He warned that graduate unemployment is still "vulnerable" and recovery cannot be guaranteed.
The annual What Do Graduates Do? study is based on official data collected through a survey of thousands of graduates to find out who was employed, in further study or out of work.
The findings show that 284,160 students graduated in 2010 with a first degree. Of these, 62.2% went into work, 13.5% went on to further study and 7.6% were working and studying.
The study suggests that amid a squeeze on public spending, there are signs that fewer graduates are going to work in the public sector. The report adds that "modest" growth in private sector employment may offset slowing public sector recruitment.
While there was no major decline in the numbers of graduates going on to work as nurses, doctors and teachers, clerical and secretarial posts in areas such as local government, public administration and defence have dropped from 7.9% of graduates employed to 6.8%. Marketing, sales and advertising saw the biggest jump, with 31% more graduates entering roles in these areas compared with the year before, the study found.
Toni Pearce, National Union of Students vice-president, said: "Graduate unemployment is still very high and this is only a very small light at the end of what looks like a very long tunnel. When the jobs market is so difficult even for well qualified graduates the Government should be supporting young people by protecting jobs, creating well-funded apprenticeships and properly supporting those in education."