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Young bounce back into work after lockdowns

Youth unemployment is now at lower levels than before the pandemic. A report by think thank Resolution Foundation has found.

The report says that the unemployment rate for 18 to 24-year-olds fell to 9.8 per cent in the three months to November, below the pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 10.5 per cent.

This rebound was despite one in three young people who had been working in February 2020 experiencing at least three months of worklessness, although furlough support kept them out of unemployment.

However, while young people returned rapidly to work as shops, restaurants and bars reopened, the foundation warned that they were now more likely to be on a temporary or zero-hours contract, doing agency work or variable hours. According to the foundation’s survey of 6,100 young adults, one in three of those who had returned to work were employed on insecure terms, compared with 12 per cent before Covid hit. Furthermore, one in four of those who had returned to work were looking for a new job, compared with 19 per cent of those who were in work throughout the past two years.

While youth unemployment had not increased during the pandemic, the number of 18 to 24-year-olds who were economically inactive and not in full-time study had risen, especially among young men — increasing by 47,000 compared with spring 2021.

Louise Murphy, an economist, said: “Young people were hit hardest by the economic impact of the pandemic but have bounced back, thanks in large part to the furlough scheme. But policymakers and employers must not be complacent: problems persist for young people who are at risk of insecure work and economic inactivity.”

The think tank raised concerns that the instability of the post-pandemic labour market could increase mental health problems, while worklessness during lockdowns has put young people “at risk of blighted future employment and pay prospects”.

Last October 64 per cent of those who had been out of work in the previous three months reported a common mental health disorder, compared with 51 per cent of young people overall.

The think tank said the focus must be on tacking insecure work and access to jobs, but also that young people had the confidence to apply for them. “A return to work is not enough,” Murphy said.

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