The class of 08/09 is almost completely employed - and earning an average of £24,000

Almost all students who graduated at the peak of the recession are now in work or education, with less than five per cent unemployed, new figures have revealed.

Almost nine in 10 of those who completed their degrees in 2008/09 had found employment in some form three and a half years later, with data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency showing that of those in work, nearly three quarters are in full-time paid jobs. Just 3.2 per cent of the graduates are unemployed, while the national unemployment rate is 7.8 per cent.

Conducted last November, the survey found that the vast majority of those questioned - 83.5 per cent - were satisfied with their career so far, with two thirds describing university as a worthwhile investment and three in four acknowledging that university helped prepare them for the world of work.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of vice-chancellors' group Universities UK, said: "These encouraging figures highlight the signs of recovery in the graduate jobs market after the recession. Graduates from UK universities are in demand from employers, both here and overseas, and are more likely to be employed and earn more than non-graduates over a working lifetime.

"We know that the majority of those graduates who do not go straight into work six months after graduating are in full-time employment three years later. Some graduates will have postponed looking for a first job in order to undertake further study, to get work experience or for other reasons such as periods of travel."

The median salary of the 62,200 UK graduates surveyed was £24,000 per year after three and a half years, compared with £20,000 in the six-month survey.

"Education is a powerful force for good in our society and provides the best opportunity people have to get on in life,” commented Simon Renton, president of the University and College Union (UCU). “In simple financial terms, people with degrees are more likely to be employed and more likely to earn a better wage. Research also shows that better-educated people are less likely to be involved in crime or a drain on the welfare state."