Are 40% of recent graduates unemployed?

19 February 2014

 "2 in 5 graduates jobless six months after finishing studies"

Daily Telegraph, 18 February 2014

Yesterday the Telegraph, the Independent and the Mirror reported the results of a survey conducted by that found 40% of graduates looking for work six months after completing their studies.

But totaljobs has not substantiated its claim and figures published a year previously from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) indicate the number could be closer to 8%.

Without any information on the methods behind the totaljobs survey or a breakdown of its results, it's impossible to draw any conclusions about what it means for graduates.

We don't know, for instance, who totaljobs means by 'recent graduates' — whether it just refers to undergraduates or postgrads, full or part time students. We also don't know how representative respondents were of recent graduates as a whole.

We've asked for clarification on these points but haven't heard back, so the numbers remain unsubstantiated.

An alternative source for graduate employment figures is a survey of 410,000 graduates published last July by HESA. This suggested that 8% of 2011/12 leavers were unemployed 6 months after finishing their studies.

Everybody who graduated from full and part time doctorates, postgraduate degrees, undergraduate degrees and foundation degrees during that academic year received a survey on what they were doing six months on.

Three-quarters responded. Of full time student leavers, 8% were unemployed six months on, with the remainder mostly either in work, study or both. For part time students, 4% were out of work.

But the percentages don't necessarily represent everyone who graduated that year. Those who didn't respond may have done so for particular reasons, possibly being too busy working or looking for work. Whatever the reasons, it's difficult to tell whether people who did respond are representative of recent graduates.

That said, even if we do assume that everyone who didn't respond was unemployed at the time (and we've no reason to), the proportion of graduates who were unemployed six months after leaving their course would be 33% for the 2011/12 academic year, still far short of the 40% claimed in the survey.

It's difficult to put an exact number on the proportion of recent graduates who are jobless six months after graduating, but the available estimates suggest the figure from totaljobs is an outlier. Without more information about the survey, the numbers are unsubstantiated as they stand.

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