Youth unemployment at 20% – in some parts of the UK: new ONS figures

Unemployed youth in Luton – the number of unemployed youth has doubled to 276,000 in the last three months

FIGURES released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the number of workers on UK company payrolls fell by 649,000 between March and June, that there are now 47,000 more young people unemployed than there were a year ago, and that the number of people claiming benefits last month is up to 2.6 million.

The ONS said young people are being especially badly hit.

‘The estimated number of people unemployed aged 16 to 24 years increased by 47,000 on the year, while other age groups remained steady,’ the ONS said.

Many young people are employed in the hospitality industry, which was largely shut down from 23 March. The retail sector, another source of jobs for younger people, has also been hard hit by the lockdown.

A fifth of all of those claiming out-of-work benefits, 514,770, are aged between 18 and 24.

The number of young new claimants who have signed on between March and June is 276,000 – more than doubling over three months.

There are now parts of the country with nearly 20% of their young population on Universal Credit or Jobseeker’s Allowance – including Walton in Liverpool and south Blackpool.

Even affluent areas such as south-west Surrey, Henley and Windsor have seen a quadrupling in the number of young claimants under lockdown, though many of these are likely to have become eligible to claim as a result of being furloughed.

According to the Resolution Foundation, one-third of 18 to 24-year-old employees have lost jobs or been furloughed during the pandemic, compared to one in six adults above that age.

The ONS also said that since the start of the pandemic, total weekly hours worked in the UK had fallen by a record 175.3 million, or 16.7%, to 877.1 million hours.

‘This was the largest annual decrease since estimates began in 1971, with total hours dropping to their lowest level since May to July 1997,’ the ONS added.

John Phillips, GMB Acting General Secretary, said yesterday: ‘Hundreds of thousands of people have been plunged into immediate difficulty and millions more face a deeply uncertain future. Without further government action, the risk is the cuts to jobs and wages so far will just be the tip of an iceberg that crushes livelihoods and crashes our economy.

‘The response from this recession cannot be like the last if we are to recover.

‘This country cannot endure another decade of weak growth and cuts to services – we need a government prepared to make bold investment in jobs, skills and industries.’

Dave Wiltshire, secretary of the All Trades Union Alliance (ATUA) commented: ‘Trade union leaders must act now or their members should throw them out. It is not enough to tell everyone that everything is going down the drain. What their members want to know is what they are going to do about. The Tories must be brought down through a general strike. A workers government must be formed to nationalise the banks and all the major industries and go forward to a socialist economy, where everyone can have a decent life.’