New data by the ONS has revealed that graduates have been adversely impacted by the pandemic, with the most recent unemployment rates for this group reaching 5.2 per cent.

New statistics released by the Office for National Statistics have shown that the unemployment rate for graduates rose to over 5 per cent (5.2 per cent) in the final quarter of last year.

This was higher than the general unemployment rate across the UK which reached 5.1 per cent in the three months leading up to December.

Despite this, the research did show that graduates, on average, are less likely to experience unemployment than non-graduates. Over three-quarters (76 per cent) of people who are currently unemployed do not hold a degree.

This has not prevented a rising number of unemployed graduates, however. The number of unemployed people who obtained a degree has tripled over this past year.

Between Q1 of 2017 and Q3 of 2020, the average unemployment rate for this group was 3 per cent. However, after Q3 of 2020, this sharply increased, reaching a peak of 12 per cent. These figures, the ONS state, suggest that “recent graduates have been hardest hit by the pandemic in terms of unemployment”.

The ONS also found a stand-out trend – notably, that the graduate skills mismatch, defined as the proportion of graduates not employed in graduate occupations, decreased by 5.0 percentage points to 25.5 per cent.

This was found to be a significant trend due to the fact that, during recession periods, workers tend to accept jobs in lower-level occupations that do not match their skills, prompting an increase in skills mismatch. However, this time, a decline in skills mismatch has occurred instead.

Overall, the ONS stated that whilst this group had been hit hard, graduates were better able to change occupations in the periods prior to and in the first few months of the crisis, compared with workers in the total labour force in the UK.

It found that these occupational shifts may have been helped by their wider skill set. Due to this, the research ultimately suggested that graduates may be in a strong position to adjust to the challenges imposed by the pandemic such as retaining jobs or finding new employment opportunities.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.