Almost a third of graduate workers are in non-professional jobs six months after leaving university, figures show.
The latest UK-wide data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency - for 2002-03 - indicate that 62% of graduates were in full-time jobs by this stage.
Of these, 18.3% were in administrative and secretarial work and 11.1% in sales and customer services.
But the government said 6.8 million of the 13.5 million jobs to be filled by 2012 would require graduates. 'Still a good time to be a graduate'
Ministers have set a target of getting 50% of young people in England into higher education by 2010.
Opponents say this will flood the employment market with over-qualified staff and do little to improve the UK's skills shortage.
The rest of the UK has not set formal enrolment targets.
The Hesa figures show 182,300 people graduated from full-time first degree courses in 2002-03. After six months, 7.1% were unemployed.
Meanwhile, 8% were doing a combination of work and study and 16% were in study alone.
Of those working full-time, 26.3% of posts were classified as "associate professional and technical" and 24.6% as "professional".
The average salary reported was �17,000.
A Department for Education and Skills (DfES) spokesman said: "It is still a good time to be a graduate. This new survey looks at destinations six months after leaving university, but we know that graduate unemployment falls significantly over time.
"Recent evidence shows that just 1 to 2% of graduates are unemployed and seeking work, seven years after graduation."
Of the 800 graduates from new two-year foundation (vocational) degree courses whose destinations were known, 30.5% were working.
Some 23.5% were working and studying, 40.1% were in study only and 4.2% were assumed to be unemployed.
The DfES spokesman added: "We are delighted with this first indication that graduates who have studied shorter, more vocationally oriented courses such as foundation degrees are less likely to be unemployed than other graduates.
"This is very encouraging as most of the future growth in university expansion will come through these courses."
Recent research by the careers website Doctorjob.com found 70% of graduates thought their university had given them enough "employability" skills to find a job.
But only 30% of the 2,500 surveyed had taken part in skills training and just 20% had used a personal development plan while studying. BBC News