Youth unemployment as bad now as in 1984

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  • The number of people aged 16 to 24 in full-time education has more than doubled over the last 30 years
  • 69% of young people not in full-time education were employed at the end of 2013
  • The proportion of young people undertaking work alongside full-time study has been falling since the year 2000
  • Young people are most likely to work in the lowest skilled jobs in the economy
  • In the final quarter of 2013 the youth unemployment rate was similar to that in 1984
  • Around 13 in every 100 young people were unemployed, in the final quarter of 2013
  • The youth unemployment rate in the UK was lower than the European Union average in 2013
  • Wokingham had the highest youth employment rate, for those not in full-time education, across England and Wales
  • Hartlepool and Wolverhampton had the highest unemployment rates for young people who are not in full-time education across England and Wales
  • Barking and Dagenham had the highest inactivity rate for young people who are not in full-time education across England and Wales
  • Of all young people across local areas, Barking and Dagenham has the highest percentage who state they are not working because they are looking after the family or home. Neath Port Talbot has the highest percentage who say they are long term sick or disabled.

Young people, as entrants to the labour market, were most likely to work in the lower skilled jobs

Young people who are in work, regardless of if they are in full-time education or not, are most likely to be working in the lowest skilled occupation group known as elementary occupations. This group contains jobs such as kitchen/catering assistants and waiters/waitresses. The second most common occupational group that young people work in is sales and customer service occupations. In 2013, using a four quarter average across the year, for those who worked alongside full-time study these two occupational groups accounted for almost three-quarters (73%) of all those in employment. For those not in full-time education the equivalent figure is 36% with 19% working in elementary occupations and a further 17% working in sales and customer service occupations. The spread across all the occupation groups was more varied for those working and not in full-time education compared with those working alongside studying.

By comparison, for people aged 25 to 64 the largest occupational group was professional occupations, in which 22% work, followed by associate professional and technical occupations at 15%. Overall young people in full-time education work in part-time lesser skilled jobs, however they may still develop some valuable work experience for future careers.

In the final quarter of 2013 the youth unemployment rate was similar to that in 1984

For young people at the end of 2013 the unemployment rate, measured as a proportion of the labour force rather than the total population, was 20%. This was similar to the position in 1984, following the 1980s recession and was higher than the peak of 18% in 1993 following the 1990s recession. The youth unemployment rate peaked at 22% towards the end of 2011, following the UK economic downturn in 2008.

How do different parts of the UK differ?

The situation for young people varies across the countries of the UK and regions of England. Focusing on those who are no longer in full-time education, between October 2012 and September 2013, the South East of England had the highest employment rate at 73% and Northern Ireland the lowest at 61%.

The North East of England had the highest unemployment rate for young people who were not in full-time education at 25% between October 2012 to September 2013, 6 percentage points higher than the UK average of 19%. The South East of England had the lowest unemployment rate for young people who were not in full-time education at 15%.

When excluding full-time students, Wokingham was the local authority that had the highest youth employment rate at 83.2%. This is around 11 percentage points higher than the average for England and Wales at 72.3%. The next highest youth employment rate was in South Gloucestershire at 81.7%, followed by North Yorkshire at 81.2%, Bracknell Forest at 81.0% and West Berkshire at 80.7%.

Commenting on the ONS analysis of young people in the labour market, City & Guilds Chief Executive Chris Jones said: “We need to get to the bottom of the issues raised in today’s ONS statistics on youth unemployment. During National Apprenticeship Week and National Careers Week, we’re meant to celebrate excellence and opportunity, so it is depressing to see that the UK’s youth unemployment rate is similar to levels last seen in 1984 despite the number of people aged 16 to 24 in full-time education more than doubling in the last 30 years. Too many young people are in danger of falling through the cracks as their education leaves them unprepared for the world of work.

“And when young people do find jobs they are some of the lowest skilled in the economy. Our recent research showed that 54% of young professionals regretted their chosen career path. An unhappy workforce is an unproductive workforce which in turn, damages our economy.

“Instead of looking for quick-fixes, we need long-term solutions that equip young people with the skills they need to be successful in the workplace. As well as highlighting alternatives to university, such as apprenticeships, it’s critical that we give young people access to careers advice which is relevant to the 21st century. Only by breaking down the separation between education and employment will we ensure that young people are not consigned to a lifetime on the dole queue.”

Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, commented: “The labour market is picking up pace, as new vacancies are steadily opening up. But it remains immensely challenging for young people to find their way into the working world, and increasingly difficult for them to secure the dream role. For a third of our youth, the route into working is through low skilled jobs in customer services or hospitality and catering, through which new workers can build time into their CV, and make themselves more attractive to future employers.

“The north-south divide in the jobs market is also affecting young workers. In January, seven of the worst ten cities to find a job were in the North – an area which is still suffering from post-recession budget cuts to its prominent public sector. It’s no coincidence that the North East is home to the highest level of youth unemployment in the country – with a quarter of our youth out of work. Add to that the fact that advertised salaries fell to a 17 month low in January, and the outlook for our young workers is still overcast.

“Perhaps one bright spot is the growing trend towards apprenticeships, currently being highlighted by national apprenticeship week. We have various business sectors – mainly manufacturing and engineering – that are desperate for entry-level talent while we also have high youth unemployment. Apprenticeships look like a case of killing two employment birds with one skills-creating stone.”

The Office for National Statistics yesterday published their report on Young People in the Labour Market. You can find all the infographics and tables released by the ONS on our facebook page.

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