By Stephen Evans
The furlough scheme means employment and unemployment were little affected overall by the latest lockdown. But below the headlines, it’s increasingly clear that young people are bearing the brunt of the economic effects of the crisis.
The latest ONS data released this week shows there are 368,000 fewer 16-24 year olds in work than a year ago. Young people account for 57 per cent of the total fall in employment, around five times higher than you’d expect given the share of total employment they account for. They are also more likely to be furloughed than other age groups.
The main driver is that young people are more likely to work in sectors like retail and hospitality that have been hardest hit by ongoing economic restrictions.
Added to this, many young people have had a disrupted education and those leaving full-time education have found themselves entering a labour market with two-thirds fewer vacancies at the height of the first lockdown in spring 2020.
As a result, the number of young people claiming unemployment-related benefits has more than doubled to over 500,000, despite an extra 80,000 16-17 year olds staying in full-time education, in part to wait out the storm.
It’s clear that young people have had their education and employment opportunities profoundly and disproportionately affected through the pandemic. But with lockdown restrictions now easing, vacancies are back to pre-crisis levels. The success of the vaccine programme gives us hope that we are returning to some form of normality. So will young people’s prospects simply improve in line with the expected economic recovery?