Graduate employment outcomes worsen

New data released from the federal government shows that graduate employment outcomes have dipped from last year:

In 2019, 72.2 per cent of undergraduates were in full-time employment four months after completing their degree, down by 0.7 percentage points from 72.9 per cent in the previous year. The overall employment rate for undergraduates was 86.8 per cent in 2019, down slightly from 87.0 per cent in 2018. The fall in employment among new graduates is in contrast with the improvement in full-time employment among more established undergraduates three years after graduation from 89.2 per cent in 2018 to 90.1 per cent in 2019, as shown by the 2019 Graduate Outcomes Survey – Longitudinal (GOS-L). Similarly, overall employment among undergraduates three years out improved from 91.9 per cent in 2018 to 93.3 per cent in 2019. That new graduates were finding it harder to gain employment than more established graduates is consistent with the slight softening in the labour market observed in early 2019 with the overall unemployment rate rising from a low point of 4.9 per cent in February 2019 to 5.3 per cent in May 2019, as shown by the ABS Labour Force Survey (6203.0).1 Graduates newly entering the workforce and with less work experience generally experience greater difficulty finding work, This is consistent with the broader long run trend since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) where new graduates have found it more difficult to make a successful transition to the labour market upon completion of their studies.

The labour force participation rate for undergraduates improved from 91.9 per cent in 2018 to 92.4 per cent in 2019. The median undergraduate salary level increased by $1,600 or by 2.6 per cent to $62,600 in 2019. Reporting of graduate salaries in the 2019 GOS includes all graduates employed full-time.

The proportion of postgraduate coursework graduates in full-time employment in 2019 was 86.8 per cent, down slightly from 86.9 per cent in 2018, and mirroring the slight decrease for undergraduates. In addition, overall employment declined slightly to 92.7 per cent in 2019, a fall of 0.2 percentage points on the previous year. The labour force participation rate increased slightly to 96.3 per cent.

Labour market outcomes for postgraduate research graduates were also more positive than for undergraduates with 81.1 per cent in fulltime employment, a decrease of 1.2 percentage points over the previous year. The overall employment rate for postgraduate research graduates decreased by 1.1 percentage points to 90.7 per cent while their labour force participation rate of 93.9 per cent represents a decrease of 0.2 percentage points from 2018.

The softening makes sense given the weakening of the broader labour market.

For a longer-term perspective, the below chart from the Productivity Commission tells the story:

Too many university graduates chasing too few professional jobs.

Leith van Onselen

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