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Fall in unemployment but many still struggle.

Byline: GARETH EVANS

A FALL in unemployment amongst university leavers should not detract from the reality that many students are struggling to find work, Welsh unions have warned.

Research by the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU) found that around one in 12 (8.5%) of those who graduated in 2010 - some 19,785 in total - were still without a job six months later, down from 8.9% in 2009.

This is the first fall since the start of the recession, but graduate unemployment is still higher than before the economic crisis began, the study says.

In 2007, before the recession, it stood at 5.5%. There were around 20,000 fewer students graduating in 2007 than in 2010, HECSU said.

Charlie Ball, the unit's deputy research director, said: "While graduate unemployment has fallen, it remains high in comparison to levels reported at the beginning of the recession and graduates still face stiff competition - not just from their peers but also from more recent graduates."

He warned that graduate unemployment is still "vulnerable" and recovery cannot be guaranteed.

The annual What Do Graduates Do? study is based on official data collected through a survey of thousands of graduates to find out who was employed, in further study, or out of work.

The findings show that 284,160 students graduated in 2010 with a first degree. Of these, 62.2% went into work, 13.5% went on to further study and 7.6% were working and studying.

The study suggests that amid a squeeze on public spending, there are signs that fewer graduates are going to work in the public sector.

While there was no major decline in the numbers of graduates going on to work as nurses, doctors and teachers, clerical and secretarial posts in areas like local government, public administration and defence have dropped from 7.9% of graduates employed to 6.8%.

Marketing, sales and advertising saw the biggest jump, with 31% more graduates entering roles in these areas compared with the year before, the study found.

Mr Ball said: "Many parts of the graduate employment market remain fragile, and recovery has not spread to all sectors or regions of the country.

"The jobs market for graduates is still vulnerable to bad economic weather and a continued recovery cannot be guaranteed in the current climate." Lleu Williams, political liaison officer at the University and College Union Cymru, said: "These new figures, despite there being a slight drop, show how fragile the graduate employment market still is. It is becoming increasingly hard for graduates to gain employment.

"We do have concerns on how this generation of graduates will access employment. Their ability to do so is vital for the future of the Welsh economy.

We welcome the Welsh Government's plans for dealing with this issue through increased apprenticeships and the Wales Future Jobs Fund."

Dr Philip Dixon, director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, added: "The very small reduction in the percentage of graduate unemployment should not blind us to the big picture which is that many students are still finding it very difficult to find work."

CAPTION(S):

* Graduate unemployment has fallen but remains high compared to the start of the recession
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 10, 2011
Words:536
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