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'It’s Incredibly Worrying' – Young People Suffer the Worst Effects of COVID Unemployment

According to the UK's Office for National Statistics, the number of 16 to 24-year-olds in employment fell by 156,000 in the three months leading up to July.
16 September 2020, 7:35am
'It’s Incredibly Worrying' – Young People Suffer the Worst Effects of COVID Unemployment
Photo: Sian Bradley. 

More young people are losing their jobs than any other age group thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. This is according to the latest employment data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

According to the ONS’s September “Labour Markets” report, the number of 16 to 24 year-olds in employment fell by 156,000 in the three months leading up to July. With many young people working in sectors negatively affected by the pandemic, such as hospitality and the arts, it is likely that this has contributed to the high number of job losses.

While young people are facing the brunt of COVID-related job losses, unemployment is rising across all age groups. After the UK economy went into recession earlier this year, the ONS reported that 695,000 workers lost their jobs in the months leading up to July, with young people being the worst affected.

While the furlough scheme, introduced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in March, has temporarily limited the extent of these job losses, the UK has still seen a large spike in redundancy. According to the ONS report, 156,000 people were made redundant in the three months leading up to July – the sharpest quarterly increase in redundancies since the 2008 financial crisis.

With the furlough scheme set to end in October, many fear a looming unemployment crisis in the UK. The rate of unemployment rose to 4.1 percent between April and June, despite the furlough scheme – equivalent to 1.4 million people. While this was only up from 3.9 percent in the three months ending in June, it’s clear that the UK could be spiralling towards unemployment levels not seen since 2009. Indeed, the Bank of England predicts that unemployment will hit 2.5 million by the end of the year.

Richard Rigby, head of policy and public affairs for youth charity The Prince’s Trust, said: “It’s incredibly worrying to see that the official youth employment rate has already fallen to levels not seen since the last recession. Even more daunting is that the reality of the situation is almost certainly worse than the picture we see now, because today’s labour market data only shows us what’s happened up to July.”

“Whilst we can expect this trend to continue for months to come, we shouldn’t roll over and let this crisis crush the prospects and aspirations of the UK’s young people,” he continued. “It’s not going to be easy, but if young people are supported to up-skill, re-skill and access suitable work and training opportunities, they’ll be in a much better position to avoid long-term unemployment and will be able to contribute to the recovery of our economy.”

Update 16/09/20: An earlier version of this article contained a quote from the Prince’s Trust, stating: “the official youth employment rate has already fallen to levels not seen since the last recession." This has been corrected to: “the official youth employment rate has already fallen to levels not seen since 2015, in the steepest drop since the midst of last recession.