The latest ONS unemployment statistics show a further fall in youth unemployment – 917 000 16-24 year olds are out of work, down 42 000 on the previous quarter. Conduct a more thorough analysis however and you’ll quickly discover a different picture
To begin with, as ONS itself recognises, there are problems with the way the statistics are constructed. Youth unemployment statistics include full-time students also looking for part-time work. Secondly, they don’t take into account the number of young people recorded as ‘economically inactive’ who may want a job, but have simply given up looking for one. Or, those who may have returned to full-time education because they can’t find employment.
For example, the total number of students increased by 35 000 to reach a total of 3.06 million. The number of students not seeking employment also rose by 41 000. This means that if ‘unemployment’ amongst 16-24 year olds fell by 1.4%, compared with the previous quarter; the number of 16-24 employed barely changed at all (an increase of 0.2%).
A more accurate measurement of youth unemployment can be obtained by using figures for those ‘not in full-time education’ (FTE). Here the July statistics (based on the period March to May 2011) show a 0.5% rise in the percentage of those unemployed in this category compared to the previous quarter. Add this total to the number of young people classified as ‘economically inactive’ and you’ll find there has actually been a fall in the number of young people employed.
More generally 30% of all 18-24 year olds who are not full-time students continue to not work at all. If full-time students are included then this figure is over 40% – signifying the rise and rise of workless youth. With many economists forecasting a return to recession however, youth unemployment is almost certain to rise again –no matter how it is measured.