A survey of 500 recent graduates shows only 6 per cent had found a graduate job, with two-thirds taking work just to pay bills.
A total of 36 per cent of recent graduates had claimed Jobseeker's Allowance in the past year, of which half had claimed for longer than six months.
Recruitment website totaljobs.com described the results as "shocking" following recent official figures showing that nearly 150,000 graduates had removed themselves from the labour market by undertaking further study to delay joining the world of work.
Mike Fetters, graduate sales director at totaljobs.com, said: "Having invested heavily in securing a decent degree, it is not unreasonable for graduates to feel they deserve a job that matches their career expectations.
"Unfortunately competition for professional roles has never been fiercer.
"Students who have failed to prepare carefully through extra-curricular activities and early engagement with employers are simply not making the grade."
The contrast between job expectations before and after graduation was said to be "stark".
The average graduate salary was currently 25,000, but for those still at university, a "worrying" one in ten believed they would earn more than 35,000 in their first job, said the report.
Only half of those polled had made full use of their university careers advisory service, with 60 per cent of those saying it had failed them.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: "Over half of all young people claiming JSA come off within three months – and all the indications are that graduates come off even sooner."