Young people aged 16 to 24 suffered the biggest drop in employment of any age group in the three months to July, as the UK unemployment rate rose to 4.1%.
The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on jobs and the economy has started to become clearer, with figures from the Office for National Statistics showing an increase in the UK unemployment rate to its highest level in two years.
In August 2020, around 695,000 fewer people were in paid employment in the UK than in March 2020 when Coronavirus lockdown measures began.
Young people have been hit particularly badly by job losses over recent months, with around 156,000 fewer young people in paid employment in the three months to July compared to data from the previous quarter.
Between May and July 2020, most age groups saw a rise in employment figures, however, the 16-24 age group saw significant job losses. The unemployment rate for the age group in the UK is now around 13.4%, compared to 4.1% for the UK as a whole.
In its analysis of the latest unemployment figures, the Office for National Statistics found that the increase in youth unemployment is ‘linked to younger workers’ tendency to work in industries that were worst affected by the pandemic’.
With many young people working in the entertainment and hospitality industries, some fear that more jobs could be lost from the age group as the Government’s Job Retention (furlough) scheme comes to an end. With the Government having said it will not extend the furlough scheme, the unemployment rate could potentially rise more quickly in the coming months.
Are firms recruiting?
In April to June 2020, the number of job vacancies in the UK fell to a record low, with there being an estimated 341,000 vacancies. In January-March 2020, there had been an estimated 796,000 vacancies according to ONS data.
During the pandemic, many firms put their recruitment plans on hold due to the uncertainty and economic impacts caused by the pandemic. Some firms are still not recruiting, at least to their normal levels – recruitment in sectors such as aviation has been particularly badly affected.
Some sectors did though see a sharp rise in job vacancies during the pandemic including the health sector, supermarkets and logistics.
In June-August 2020, there was a continued recovery in the number of job vacancies in the UK. Around 434,000 vacancies were available during the period, an increase of almost 30% on April-June 2020.
What support has the government been offering to young people struggling to enter the jobs market?
The UK Government recently launched its new ‘Kickstart Scheme’, which was announced by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in July.
Under the scheme, firms are to be encouraged to create new, additional jobs for 16-24-year-olds at risk of long-term unemployment. The jobs must provide at least 25 hours of work a week and pay at least the National Minimum Wage. The Government will cover the cost of wages for young people on the scheme for 6 months, plus an amount to cover overheads for the employer.
Only people on Universal Credit aged between 16 and 24 who are at risk of long-term unemployment are to be eligible for the scheme, but the Chancellor has said there is to be no cap on the number of jobs that can be funded through the scheme.