The Higher Education Careers Services Unit (Hescu) said the percentage of graduates out of work in January this year had risen to 8.9 per cent, the worst figure since 1993.
Students with degrees in geography and psychology fared better than average, with unemployment rates of 7.4 per cent and 8.3 per cent respectively. The discipline hardest hit was information technology, with 16.3 per cent of students who graduated in 2009 out of work.
Media-studies graduates were also struggling, with a jobless rate of 14.6 per cent, as were those entering construction and engineering, particularly within architecture and building, mechanical engineering and civil engineering (10.9 per cent, 11.8 per cent and 11.9 per cent respectively).
The public sector was one of the few areas to continue recruiting through the recession, a fact that is now fuelling concerns about the impact that cuts announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review will have on graduate employment.
Charlie Ball, deputy research director at Hecsu, said: “Graduate unemployment hasn’t risen as high as we feared and is some way off the levels of the last recession in 1992, when it reached 11.6 per cent.
“Prospects for graduates in the short term look brighter, with unemployment as a result of the downturn likely to have peaked. However, with the anticipated public-sector job cuts, the future in the medium term looks less clear.”
While vacancies in the private sector have suffered, recruitment to the retail sector bucked the trend, absorbing 14.4 per cent of graduates joining the sector, a 3.8 per cent increase year on year.
Marketing was the only other part of the private sector to have taken on more graduates.
More students were continuing their studies or training than were unemployed (15.4 per cent).
While the number securing graduate-level jobs fell to 62.4 per cent, salaries continued to rise, but only marginally. New graduates can expect a mean salary of £19,695, about £18 higher than the previous year.
Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, said rising unemployment was “yet further proof that the radical proposals in Lord Browne’s review to remove government funding for the majority of subjects, and simply transfer this cost to students, are unfair and illogical”.
By Rebecca Attwood