Growth for graduates… The labour market is not without its dysfunctions, yet overall it is a place of cheer: rising employment, a muscular private sector, more fulltime work, plenty of room for Brits, etc. But one part of this good news story goes largely unnoticed. Over the past year, the government has published a new data series on graduate employment. The latest release, which I’ve transliterated into the graph above, shows that the employment rate among young graduates (i.e. those aged between 21 and 30) was 86.9 per cent in the second quarter of this year. This is 0.5 percentage points lower than it was last year; otherwise it’s the highest Q2 rate since 2006, and 3 percentage points higher than it was in 2010.
…and for postgraduates. The good news doesn’t end there. The unemployment rate among young graduates – which isn’t shown on the graph, to avoid clutter – was 4.4 per cent in the second quarter of this year, the smallest Q2 total since 2008. And as for those who aren’t either in work or seeking it? They’re most likely still in study, further improving their job prospects. The employment rate for young postgraduates – which also isn’t shown on the graph – was 89.5 per cent in the second quarter of this year, the largest Q2 total since 2007.
What about those without degrees? The graph also includes the employment rate for non-graduates. There’s quite a distance between them and their degreed-up counterparts. 70 per cent of young non-graduates were in work in the second quarter of this year, which is 16.9 percentage points lower than it was for graduates. And the gap widens to a full 40 percentage points when we consider only “high skill employment”. No wonder the median salary for non-graduates is £7,000 a year below that earned by graduates.
The decline of high-skilled work. There are complications to this story, however. One is suggested by the blue dotted line for the proportion of graduates working in high skilled jobs. This has declined by 6.2 percentage points since the second quarter of 2006, or by 6.7 percentage points since its peak in the second quarter of 2008. The Business Department speculates: “These trends could be driven by various factors, such as a shifting of job composition towards the medium and low skill sectors of the economy, or an increasing demand for high level skills across sectors of the economy that have traditionally focused on medium or low skills.”
The paucity of the statistics. Which raises the question of whether graduates are getting the jobs they want, expect and are educated for. Unlike the proper labour market statistics, these new ones don’t differentiate between full- and part-time employment, nor the reasons for it, so it’s rather difficult to tell. They are still classed as “experimental statistics,” though, subject to consultation. Perhaps this is one way in which they could change.