Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Friday, 8 August 2008 10:54 UK

Graduate jobs market stays strong

University entrance
Graduates have the lowest unemployment rate for five years

The UK graduate jobs market seems to be holding firm, with the lowest graduate unemployment rate for five years.

An annual survey tracking students six months after graduation found that 5.6% are out of work, compared with 6.1% the previous year.

The highest rates of unemployment were among computer science and creative arts graduates.

Students with the lowest degree grades were also found to have the worst employment rates.

This annual survey from the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows that there is still a demand for students leaving university - with another fall in the unemployment rate among recent graduates.

Jobs trends

In 2002 the comparable graduate unemployment rate was 6.7% - compared to this latest figure of 5.6%.

This reflects a long-term trend towards a growing proportion of jobs requiring skilled staff.

However this survey shows the state of play in the jobs market for those who left university a year ago - and so any impact from the credit crunch and economic uncertainty would not yet have been a factor.

There are also considerable variations within this figure. Courses which lead directly to specific careers, such as medicine, dentistry and teaching, have very low unemployment rates - in medicine it is only 0.2%.

But at the other end of the scale, six months after graduating, 9.7% of computer science graduates, 8.2% of creative arts and design graduates and 7.6% of those with mass communication degrees were not working.

Another significant factor is degree grade - with the higher the grade the lower the likelihood of being unemployed.

Among those with first class degrees, 3.7% were unemployed, while for those who were awarded a lower second the rate was 7.3%.

The strong jobs market for graduates reflects the findings of an earlier survey from the Association of Graduate Recruiters, which found an 11.7% annual growth in graduate vacancies.

Although if the financial sector is struggling there could be concerns ahead as a third of all graduate vacancies are now in banking and finance.

Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said the HESA survey highlighted the value of getting a degree, which he said represented increased earnings worth more than 100,000 over a lifetime.

"These latest figures show that graduate job prospects continue to improve as more and more employers require the wide range of skills that graduates bring to their business."

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