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Britain's youth jobs crisis: Under-25s employment hits record low

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Lucy Harley-McKeown
·3-min read
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A worker takes a customer's food and drinks order as they sit at outside tables in the Soho area of London, on April 16, 2021 following step two of the government's roadmap out of England's third national lockdown. - Britons on Apri l12 toasted a significant easing of coronavirus restrictions, with early morning pints -- and much-needed haircuts -- as the country took a tentative step towards the resumption of normal life. Businesses including non-essential retail, gyms, salons and outdoor hospitality were all able to open for the first time in months in the second step of the government's roadmap out of lockdown. (Photo by Niklas HALLE'N / AFP) (Photo by NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images)
A worker takes a customer's food and drinks order as they sit at outside tables in the Soho area of London, on April 16, 2021 following step two of the government's roadmap out of England's third national lockdown. Photo: NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images

Young people are bearing the brunt of the UK's COVID jobs crisis, new data shows 

Just over half of people who dropped off the UK payroll in the last year were under 25, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show. 80% were under the age of 35.

ONS figures released on Tuesday showed that 813,000 jobs have disappeared from the UK payroll since March 2020. 436,000 (53.7%) of the roles were done by people under the age of 25.

The number of under-25s on the payroll has now hit just 3.4m, which youth charity Impetus said was a record low.

Watch: UK unemployment rate falls to 4.9%

READ MORE: London now unemployment capital of UK as jobless rate hits 7.2%

"It’s clear that young people need long-term support," said Eleanor Harrison OBE, Impetus' chief executive.

“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."

Young people disproportionately work in sector that have been forced to shut down due to COVID-19, such as hospitality — a potential driver for the stark figures. 

"This pandemic has hit young people hardest in the jobs market," Harrison said.

As well as losing jobs, young people are also struggling to get into employment. Research from summer 2020 showed that the number of graduate jobs in the UK had dropped by more than 60%.

The analysis by CV-Library, an independent jobs board, found many university leavers appeared to be giving up on their job hunt. Grad job searches were down by nearly a third on the site. 

READ MORE: Unemployment rate drops for second month in a row

The gloomy outlook for youth employment came despite a better-than-expected picture of the overall UK jobs market. Unemployment dipped to 4.9% in the three months to February, slightly better than the 5% previously recorded. 

However, 5 million people are still on furlough, which could lead to a spike in unemployment when the end of the government scheme rolls around in September.

Danni Hewson, AJ Bell financial analyst, said that despite stark numbers in youth unemployment, the playing field is levelling off. 

"Vacancies in sectors like hospitality were up in March as businesses geared up for lockdown release," said Hewson.

“Whilst the hope is the majority of those will be reintegrated back into the workforce, hope doesn’t pay the bills. Until the temporary ends, the reality can only be weighed and considered."

Meanwhile, the UK's largest driver for jobs, London, saw its unemployment rate outpace the rest of the UK. 

London's unemployment rate hit 7.2% in the three months to February 2021, according to the figures. The capital's jobless rate was the highest in the country.

Watch: FTSE falls despite surprise drop in unemployment