One in five new graduates is out of work, while many more are being forced to take jobs that do not require a degree, official figures show.
Data published by the Office for National Statistics reveals that the unemployment rate for new graduates stood at 18.9% in the final three months of 2011.
The report says that this rate has dipped slightly from a peak of 20.5% following the recent recession.
But the statistics also show a rise in the proportion of recent graduates who are taking up lower-skilled jobs after leaving university.
In the final three months of last year, one in three people (35.9%) who completed their degree in the last six years was working in a role that was suitable for a school leaver.
This is up from around one in four (26.7%) who were employed in lower skilled jobs in 2001.
"Higher-skill jobs generally require competence through post-compulsory education whereas lower-skill jobs tend to require competence only through compulsory education," the report explains.
It adds that graduates typically have higher employment rates than non-graduates.
In the final quarter of 2011, 86% of all graduates were in work, compared with 72.3% of those without a degree.
The ONS also looked at the wages of graduates, and found that medical and science degrees pay the highest.
The typical hourly earnings for all graduates aged 21 to 64 throughout 2011 was £15.18.
In comparison, non-graduates typically earned an hourly wage of £8.92.
Those with a degree in medicine or dentistry had typical hourly earnings of £21.29, while those with an arts degree had the lowest at £12.06.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "The recession has hit the job prospects of recent graduates but they are still nearly 20% more likely to be in work than people without degrees.
"A lack of high-quality jobs has forced more graduates into lower-skilled jobs over the last decade.
"Raising the skills of UK workers must be accompanied with an industrial strategy focused on boosting high-value industries such as manufacturing. Otherwise public investment in education and the talents of UK graduates will be wasted."
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies