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Charles Levy
Senior Economist
Charles  Levy

Is the recovery bypassing the young?

Authors: Charles Levy Charles Levy

15 June 2011


As Ian Brinkley commented this morning, today’s employment figures are positive – full-time private sector jobs are growing, a prerequisite for recovery. It is particularly encouraging that growth has been concentrated in industries that we think of as including highly knowledge intensive activity – information and communication services, professional scientific & technical activities. As we’ve argued since the start of the recession, knowledge intensive activities such as these are the only ones that can be long-term sustainable drivers for our recovery – so this growth has a good chance of lasting.

It is a real worry then that young people don’t seem to be sharing in this improvement – when comparing the period February to April to the previous three months, employment increased by 91,000 across the working age population, but only by 4,000 for 18-24 year olds. Unemployment in 18-24 year olds did drop by almost 70,000 over this period, but rather than entering employment, this was driven largely by young people moving from unemployment into full-time education.

We would normally see more young people entering education as a positive, or at least a silver lining at a time of high youth unemployment. But the jump in full-time students is mostly just a bounce back to last year’s levels – the increase of 73,000 18-24 year olds in full-time education seen in today’s figures only brings us to just 21,000 above the level seen this time last year. Perhaps most worryingly, the unemployment rate amongst young people not in full-time education is increasing.

Today’s numbers therefore underline just how far our economy is from delivering sustainable employment for young people; falls in unemployment are accounted for by an increase in participation in education, and worklessness remains high for those not in full-time education. But the removal of interventions aimed at keeping young people in education such as the Education Maintenance Allowance may have detrimental effects on these figures over the coming months. We hope to be doing more research in this area over the coming year and are currently working on establishing a solutions focused consortium here. Please contact Jonathan Wright or Neil Lee for further information..