Young People Are Suffering the Worst of Coronavirus Unemployment

New data from the Office for National Statistics shows that the employment rate for 16 to 24-year-olds fell by 1.9 percent between May and July this year.
Young People Most Likely to be Out of Work During Lockdown
Photo: Sian Bradley

Young people in the UK were more likely to be out of paid work than any other age group at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, a new report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found.

According to the ONS’ “Labour economic market analysis”, the employment rate for 16 to 24-year-olds fell by 1.9 percent, down to 52.9 percent in the period of May to July 2020. This comes after data from the organisation earlier this month showed that young people are losing their jobs at a faster rate than any other age group.


Unemployment among young people has increased during the pandemic. Between February and July 2020, young people in employment fell by 4.1 percent to 3.6 million, while unemployment in this age group rose by 6.7 percent. Of those that were employed between April and June 2020, 9.9 percent were on zero-hours contracts.

The ONS report also shows that young women were more likely to have lost or leave work than young men. While there were more women in employment overall, the rate of employment for women fell by 2.5 percent, compared to 1.2 percent for men in the period May to July 2020.

Young people have suffered high unemployment because they are more likely to work in industries that are badly affected by the pandemic, according to the ONS. These include retail, accommodation and food services, and arts and entertainment sectors such as theatres, music venues and nightclubs.

Although the government’s furlough and self-employment income support schemes will have helped prevent some job losses, the end of these programmes next month could see unemployment spike across age groups, despite Rishi Sunak’s new round of economic support measures.

Richard Rigby, head of policy and public affairs at youth charity The Prince’s Trust said: “Today’s figures are yet more evidence that this is an extraordinarily difficult period for young people. With increasing numbers turning to unemployment benefit, the livelihoods of this generation have been put on hold.”

“New Prince’s Trust research out this week shows how more than half of young people (55 percent) in the UK are more worried about being unemployed than they were a year ago, while 58 percent are ‘scared’ about being unemployed,” he continued. “We need government, employers and charities to work together to give young people skills, opportunities and hope.”