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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Almost two-thirds of students graduating from British universities this year do not expect to find a graduate-level job in an economy hit by recession and rising unemployment.
A survey of more than 16,000 final year students showed confidence in the graduate employment market has dropped to a 15-year low with many students fearing a very uncertain start to their working life.
The number of "class of 2009" finishers who have already secured a definite job offer during the annual student recruitment round has dropped by a third this year compared with 2008, the survey by independent researchers High Fliers showed.
Half of student job hunters fear that even if they do find a graduate job, the offer may be withdrawn before they start work or they will be made redundant in their first year of work.
"Final year students due to leave UK universities this summer are gloomy and frustrated about their employment prospects," said Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research.
"Having invested an average of 15,000 pounds ($22,000) in their degrees, tens of thousands of finalists are now set to leave university without a job offer and feel they have little prospect of finding work in the immediate future."
The survey showed a dramatic fall in applications for graduate jobs in banking, finance and property -- all sectors which have suffered badly since the credit crunch which prompted a global financial crisis and sharp economic decline.
Instead, more university-leavers have applied to work in the public sector, teaching, engineering, the charity or voluntary sectors and the armed forces.
Data last week showed total British unemployment jumped by 177,000 in the three months to February, the biggest rise since 1991. That took the level to 2.1 million, the highest since the Labour government came to power in 1997.
Finance Minister Alistair Darling pledged in last week's budget to spend an extra 1.7 billion pounds on helping the unemployed, pledging that those under 25 who have been out of work for a year would be offered a job or a place in training.
Reporting by Kate Kelland. Editing by Steve Addison