For graduates, employment rates recovered slightly after two consecutive years of decline, rising to 86.7%, from 86.3% in 2020. This follows a period of modest but sustained increases between 2009 and 2018, when the rate peaked at 87.7%.
The postgraduate employment rate rose by 0.1 percentage points in 2021, which was smaller than the 0.4 percentage point increase for graduates. The gap between the two employment rates reduced from 1.8 percentage points in 2020 to 1.5 percentage points in 2021.
For the second consecutive year, the non-graduate employment rate fell from 71.1% in 2020 to 70.2% in 2021. Analysis by the Office for National Statistics suggests that this decline could be partly explained by the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. They found that workers with lower qualifications were more likely to be placed on furlough and less likely to work from home, and as a result, these workers were more likely to lose their jobs and drop out of the workforce.
 ONS (2022) How furlough and changes in the employee workforce have affected earnings growth during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, UK: 2020 to 2021.
While employment rates for graduates and postgraduates were broadly similar in 2021 (a 1.5 percentage point differential), there was a greater difference between their respective high skilled employment rates, which was 12.2 percentage points higher for postgraduates than graduates.
Notably for non-graduates, high-skilled employment comprised a much smaller share of overall employment than for the other groups. Only 24.3% of non-graduates were in high-skilled employment; by comparison, 65.2% of graduates and 77.4% of postgraduates were in high-skilled employment at this time. That said, the proportion of non-graduates in high-skilled employment has been increasing consistently since 2016, while conversely the proportion of graduates and postgraduates in high-skilled employment has fallen over this period.
Median (nominal) salaries increased for both graduates and non-graduates in 2021, with the graduate premium (represented by the difference between the two salaries) widening to £10,000.
Median salaries for postgraduates have returned to the same level as in 2019 (£42,000).Meanwhile over the same period, graduate and non-graduate salaries have both increased, with graduate salaries increasing from £34,000 in 2019 to £36,000 in 2021, and non-graduate salaries increasing from £25,000 in 2019 to £26,000 in 2021.
Comparisons over time and other interpretations of these data should be made with caution. The median salary figures in this publication are not adjusted for inflation and are rounded to the nearest £500.