More than 20,000 graduates were out of work after leaving university last year, while thousands more took jobs as labourers, cleaners and road sweepers, figures show.
The numbers of young people forced to take jobs that do not necessarily need a degree has almost doubled in the past five years, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data reveals.
Overall, almost one in 10 (9%) of university leavers - 20,620 in total - were assumed to be unemployed six months after completing their degree in 2010/11.
This is around the same proportion as the year before, but higher than around five years ago in 2006/07 when it stood at 5%.
The figures also reveal that women fared better than men.
Around 6% of women were understood to be out of work after graduating, compared to 9% of men.
The HESA statistics look at the types of jobs and careers students were in six months after leaving university.
As well as showing the numbers that were jobless, the figures reveal the numbers of young people who were forced to take jobs that do not necessarily require a degree.
Rising numbers took up places in so-called "elementary occupations". This includes jobs such as labourers, couriers, office juniors, hospital porters, waiters or waitresses, bar work, cleaners, road sweepers and school dinner servers.
In total, 10,270 graduates took up these types of positions in the UK after graduating in 2010/11, almost twice as many as the 5,460 who did so in 2006/07.
A further 720 people were working in factories, compared to 595 graduates five years ago.
The statistics also show that 20,675 graduates were employed in sales and customer service roles, including sales assistant, caretaker, market trader and call centre staff.
The biggest group, around 47,350 people, went into "associate professional and technical" jobs. This includes laboratory technicians, nurses, paramedics, interpreters, police officers and the armed forces.
Overall, around 158,000 people were in some form of employment, either in the UK or abroad, six months after graduating last year, the figures show.
Universities Minister David Willetts insisted that although the job market is challenging, graduates are continuing to do better than those without a degree.
"We must ensure that graduates enter the labour market equipped to succeed," he said.
"The higher education White Paper outlines proposals that will deliver a greater focus on graduate employability. Universities will need to publish high-quality comparable information on employment rates and future salaries of graduates by university and by course.
"We will also improve the regime for sandwich courses, and promote a new framework for business and universities to work together to ensure a better fit between graduates and jobs."
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), said: "Today's figures are further bad news for students. People working hard at university face an incredibly challenging jobs market when they graduate and the Government should be doing more to stimulate jobs and growth.
"We already have huge numbers of people on the dole and, while the Prime Minister attacks people on benefits, he is doing little to help them get off benefits and on with their lives."