The numbers of young people out of work in the UK have reached new highs – with young people accounting for nearly two-thirds of job losses since the pandemic.
437,000 fewer 16- to 24-year-olds were in paid employment, a 10% fall in 12 months. In all, more than half of under-25s have been furloughed or lost their jobs.
“There’s nearly half a million fewer young people in work than a year ago,” said Laura-Jane Rawlings, the chief executive of Youth Employment UK. “The pandemic has simply raised the barriers and put the hopes of thousands of young people on hold.”
It would take 1,000 new jobs and training places a day to get back to pre-pandemic levels by October 2021 and avoid a 50% rise in the numbers of 16- to 24-year-olds not in employment, education or training.
“The government needs to be honest with young people. We simply cannot create enough job opportunities,” said Leigh Middleton, the chief executive of National Youth Agency. “Without concerted action, we fear youth unemployment could rise to over 1 million when furlough ends.”
Students who would normally have worked in the hospitality sector have not signed on as unemployed, they have disappeared from the employment register altogether. This has the effect, along with other young people who give up trying to find a job, of bringing down total participation rate to 79% in the three months to January. Then there are the number of workers not being paid while their job is on hold.
Tony Wilson, the head of the Institute for Employment Studies, explained that new hiring by companies outside the very largest firms is continuing to fall back and all of the improvement is being driven by fewer people leaving work rather than more people getting new jobs.
“This is proving to be a disaster for young people, who now account for nearly two-thirds of the fall in employment and none of the recent growth,” he said.
The lockdown and government support schemes mask a weakening labour market and when the furlough scheme ends in September, a spike in unemployment will follow.