The ONS have just released an analysis of graduate unemployment, based on the Labour Force Survey that concludes that 20% of graduates from 2010 were seeking work in Q3 2010.
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There are a number of things that need to be borne in mind about this analysis.
Firstly, the ONS actually looked at everyone with Level 4 qualifications, which is everyone from HNC up. You would expect this unemployment rate to be higher than that for first degree graduates alone. And it only examines 21-24 years olds, and does not include mature students.
Secondly, it comes from Q3 2010. This is immediately after graduation (in fact, it includes July so covers the period around graduation - for part of the quarter some of those counted as 'graduates' hadn't even left university yet). So another way of looking at the data would be to say that last summer, even with all the doomy predictions about the prospects for graduates, 80% of them had already arranged something for when they left university. When viewed in that light, things look rather less difficult.
Thirdly, this is not comparable with HESA's Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) data directly. The Labour Force Survey looks at the whole economy and not graduates specifically, and so is not necessarily going to be as accurate as a survey that looks specifically at graduates. DLHE also, obviously, take place after six months. If you refer to the graph the ONS have provided, you can see that in summer 2009, unemployment for graduates was not a very great deal lower than for 2010. Yet six months after graduating, the graduate unemployment rate was 8.9%. This tells us that between the LFS reference of Q3 (ie September) and the DLHE reference, many - probably most - graduates unemployed in the summer of 2009 found employment in the autumn. And we expect that to have happened for 2010's graduates when we get the DLHE data later in 2011.
Finally, the ONS also confirms that those without degree fared far worse than those with degrees.
What, in the end, does this tell us? The job market remains challenging for graduates, but that taking all the data sources, many, if not most, new graduates unemployed in the summer, will have found work in the autumn. We need to give the best support we can to help students have something lined up for when they graduate, and to help those that are out of work to compete for the jobs that are available.
And now is not a great time to be young, out of work and with low qualification levels.