The latest UK Labour market statistics from the Office of National Statistics (@ONS) show that payrolled employment for under 25s has fallen to 3.43 million, a new record low.
Eleanor Harrison OBE, Chief Executive at youth charity Impetus is calling for urgent support for young people:
“With a new record low for the number of under 25s currently in work, it’s clear that young people need long-term support.
“With lockdown easing and the vaccine rollout success fostering a sense of optimism, we need to do everything possible to support young people into meaningful work, starting with the extension of the Government’s flagship youth employment scheme, Kickstart.
“Many employers have had no choice but to delay their Kickstart placements given the continuing disruption of lockdowns. Extending Kickstart beyond December will give existing and potential Kickstart employers the time they need to implement their plans and offer thousands more young people the opportunity of employment.”
“With yet more evidence that this pandemic has hit young people hardest in the jobs market, now is the time to give them the much-needed support they need to thrive. This investment will benefit us all.”
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said:
“Protecting jobs and the economy has been my main focus since this pandemic began – through the furlough scheme alone we have protected 11.2 million jobs.
“As we progress on our roadmap to recovery I will continue to put people at the heart of the Government’s response through our Plan for Jobs – supporting and creating jobs across the country.”
Tony Wilson, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies said:
“Today’s figures confirm our view last month that the labour market has stopped weakening and that unemployment may have reached its peak for now. But while the headlines will focus on the slight dip in the unemployment rate, the bigger story is the continued crisis for young people.
“Youth long-term unemployment has hit a five-year high this morning, while youth employment is still falling even as it starts to rise for every other age group. This reflects the cumulative impact of three lockdowns, dragging down hiring and shutting down youth jobs. But if we don’t act quickly, in particular by focusing our support on the long-term unemployed, then we are risking another lost generation.”
Stephen Evans, chief executive of Learning and Work Institute, said:
“The third lockdown has had less impact on jobs than previous lockdowns, as businesses and people have adapted. As a result, the labour market is broadly stable and vacancies are almost back to pre-pandemic levels, though with significant differences by sector.
“The bigger picture is that unemployment could have been 2.5 million higher without the furlough scheme, given how much the economy shrank. But there are still more than 640,000 fewer people in work, and the pandemic has worsened existing inequalities with young people particularly hard hit.
“The labour market has taken up to seven years to recover after previous recessions and youth long-term unemployment is already 50% higher than last year. We need a multi-year focus on jobs and skills recovery, including a Youth Guarantee for the 500,000 young people set to leave full-time education this summer.”
Dave Innes, Head of Economics at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said:
“Today’s figures show the furlough scheme has done its job through the third lockdown to prevent a spike in the unemployment rate. We will need to see job opportunities picking up strongly in the coming months if we are to avoid many jobs being lost as the furlough scheme winds down.
“As restrictions ease, we’re all hoping the economy bounces back strongly, but it would be naive to assume that this will automatically be felt equally by everyone. We already know people on zero-hours or temporary contracts were four times more likely to lose their job in the first lockdown.
“As we look towards the economic recovery, the government must put creating high quality jobs at the heart of its response. It’s unacceptable that growing insecurity following the last recession contributed to rising in-work poverty, with one in eight workers struggling to make ends meet. The Government must tackle this injustice by bringing forward its promised employment bill as a first step to protecting workers and shaping a recovery that equips us all with the skills and conditions we need to thrive.”
REC Chief Executive Neil Carberry said:
“These figures show continued resilience in the labour market despite the winter lockdown. The unemployment rate was lower than the previous quarter – reflecting an upturn in hiring, as REC surveys and today’s vacancies numbers suggest.
“The number of temporary workers was up by 5.4% on the previous quarter – yet again demonstrating the huge importance of temporary work helping to maintain a strong labour market despite the pandemic. The role of temporary work in supporting incomes has been a constant of the pandemic.
“We now need to look to how we support this recovery. A reform of the apprenticeship levy to support retraining for older workers and opportunity for younger workers – who have been particularly hard hit – is now essential.”
Paul Naha-Biswas, CEO and Founder at recruitment tech platform Sixley:
“We must retain a sense of perspective when judging the latest ONS unemployment figures, with the statistics showing the state of the economy in February.
“Despite being just eight short weeks ago, a lot has happened, with many shops opening for the first time since January and business optimism hitting a record high.
“However, it’s important to remember that the ‘new normal’ we are entering does not constitute a return to normality pre-pandemic.
“COVID-19 and the lockdowns have fundamentally changed our economy, with many businesses no longer profitable or in heavy debt to banks – which are reportedly due to be called in in the coming months.
“The toxic combination of the above means we are set for a summer of insolvencies. And there will, inevitably, be further job losses, particularly among older workers who may not be able to adapt to the post-pandemic digital-first economy.
“With more disruption expected, we should all look out for relevant opportunities for friends or family and share these across our network. Anyone in two minds about doing this should remember that recommending contacts for roles can help them stand out in a crowded job landscape and reduce the investment of time and money for a business when it comes to recruitment.”
Reversing the trend in youth unemployment is key to drive economic recovery, says NCUB
Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) said:
“Whilst it is of course positive that the numbers of vacancies have increased to pre pandemic levels – it seems largely due to hospitality, construction and retail re-opening – now is no time for complacency. Statistics released today show that there are 800,000 fewer employees than before the pandemic, and we must also remember that under 25-year olds bore the brunt of the huge increase in unemployment over the course of the pandemic. This new data shows that 54% of those to have been left without work are under age 25. Supporting young people must be the top priority for the Government. In no uncertain terms they must act now to avoid a ‘lost generation’”.
Marshall continued: “The nation’s young people have sacrificed their livelihoods so as to save the lives of others – we owe it to them to help their careers get back on track. The Government should temporarily abolish National Insurance Contributions for young people under the age of 25. If the cost of hiring is lower, even more businesses from all sectors will be recruiting. As the UK emerges from lockdown, we must ensure that those who have lost out most economically, are given most support.”
Estimates of employment, unemployment, inactivity, average weekly earnings, vacancies and other labour market related statistics for the UK.