In the year to May to July 2020, the employment rate for young people reduced by 1.9 percentage points to 52.9%.
During the lockdown, young people were more likely to be away from paid work than other age groups.
Of all young people in employment, 9.9% were on zero-hours contracts (ZHC) in the period April to June 2020.
In the three months to June 2020, 11.1% of all young people were not in employment, education or training. Of these, 39% were unemployed and 61% were economically inactive.
Young people constitute about 11% of the people aged 16 years and over who are in employment. Figure 1 shows the labour market status of a typical group of 100 young people aged 16 to 24 years in the three months to July 2020.
Back to table of contents
Over the last decade, employment in the UK has grown by 12%, from 29.7 million in the period April to June 2011 to 33.0 million in the period May to July 2020. Over the same period, the number of young people in employment reduced by 2.5%, from 3.7 million to 3.6 million.
Between April to June 2011 and May to July in 2020:
- the unemployment rate for young people declined, from 20.6% to 13.4%
- the employment rate of young people increased gradually, from 50.5% to 52.9%
- the economic inactivity rate of young people remained relatively unchanged, from 36.4% to 38.9%
Figure 6 shows that the percentage of young people in employment increased gradually between May to July 2011 and August to October 2015. Thereafter, the percentage stabilised. The proportion of unemployed young people was 20.6% in the period April to June 2011. It decreased between June to August 2013 and June to August 2018. Since then, it has been relatively flat, but in recent periods, it increased between August to October 2019 (from 11.2%) and May to July 2020 (to 13.4%). The largest increase was experienced between January and July 2020. The trend of economically inactive young people is generally flat.
Figure 7 shows the indices of employment of young people by working pattern. It shows that the number of young people working full-time increased between 2012 and 2018. The largest number of young people working full-time was recorded between April to June 2017 and April to June 2018. After that, the number of young people full-time workers declined, although in the three months to June 2020, there were still more young people working full-time than in January to March 2012.
Figure 7 shows that the number of young people who work part-time has been variable overtime. It decreased to below the January to March 2012 level in the period April to June 2017. In the three months to June 2020, the number of young people working part-time was 3% lower than in 2012.
Young people are over-represented among workers on zero-hours contracts
Of all young people in employment, 9.9% were on zero-hours contracts (ZHCs). In the three months to June 2020, 362,000 young workers were on ZHCs in their main jobs. Workers on ZHCs provide their labour on demand. The growth in these contracts was covered extensively in January’s labour market economic commentary.
Figure 8 shows the trends of various age groups in employment who were on ZHCs. The period covered starts from 2013 because there is a structural break in the series, partly explained by the increased coverage of zero hours contracts in the second half of 2013, which may have affected the response to ZHC question.
Figure 8 shows there is an upward trend of young workers, and those aged 65 years and over who work, employed on ZHCs between October to December 2013 and April to June 2020. Young people are more likely to be employed on them than the other age groups.
In the three months to June 2020, 19.3% of the people who were in employment on ZHCs were in full-time education. In this period, the distribution of ZHCs by industry shows that such contracts were concentrated in accommodation and food service activities (22.6%), health and social work activities (19.7%), transport, arts and other services (15.9%) and wholesale and retail activities (11.3%).
More young workers are unemployed compared with middle-aged and older workers
Although the unemployment rate for young people has been declining since April to June 2011, the rate has been higher than those for middle-aged (25 to 49 years) and older workers. This is to be expected, as between the ages of 16 years and 24 years, the majority of young people transition between economic inactivity (education) and employment. This means most young people will experience at least some periods of unemployment during those six transition years. The transition years contribute to higher youth unemployment. Figure 9 shows the unemployment rates of the three age groups.
The unemployment rate for young people nearly halved between July to September 2011 and May to July 2020. Despite the large fall, the unemployment rate for young people is still more than five times higher than that of middle-aged workers. Moreover, it increased from 11.2% in the period August to October 2019 to 13.4% in the period April to June 2020. The unemployment rates for the other two age groups were relatively flat over that period.Back to table of contents
In the three months to July 2020, 45% of young people were in full-time education. There was a small increase in the proportion of young people in full-time education over the past decade, from 43% in April to June 2011. This proportion also increased in recent months, from a value of 42% in the period March to May 2020.
The proportion of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) has been declining
In the three months to June 2020, 11.1% of all young people were not in education, employment or training (NEET). The number of young people who were NEET has been declining recently. Between January to March 2020 and April to June 2020, the number of young people who were NEET reduced by 0.8% to 765,000. Over the same period, the proportion of young people aged 16 to 17 years who were NEET reduced by 0.3 percentage points to 4.2% of the relevant population group, while that of those aged 18 to 24 years increased by 0.1 percentage points to 13% of the relevant population group.
Of those that were NEET, 39% were unemployed and 61% were economically inactive. Unemployment and inactivity were higher among those aged 18 to 24 years than those aged 16 to 17 years.
The labour market status of young people in full-time education
Young people in education and training may work and study at the same time, while others may be recorded as inactive if not working or seeking to work, or as unemployed if actively seeking employment. Figure 10 shows that the rates of young people in full-time education in different labour market status have largely been stable over time.
However, things have changed in recent periods. For example, the economic inactivity rate of young people in full-time education declined from 67.6% in the three months to October 2019 to 65.5% in the three months to July 2020. Over the same period, the rate of those unemployed increased from 13% to 18.2%. The employment rate was unchanged at 28.2% between August to October 2019 and May to July 2020.
Take-up of apprenticeship training1 for young people declined significantly in 2020, by 92% to 540 between August 2019 and August 2020. The data for the three months to June 2020 show that compared with 2019, apprenticeship starts declined from February 2020.
Analysis of the trends in labour market status for young people not in full-time education shows that the largest proportion of young people not in full-time education are employed. The employment rate had an upward trend between March to May 2012 and February to April 2017. Thereafter the trend was flat. However, the rate declined from 75.3% in the three months to December 2019 to 73% in the three months to June 2020.
The rate of unemployed young people not in full-time education decreased between April to June 2011 and June to August 2018. Thereafter the trend has been flat. The rate of economically inactive young people not in full-time education has generally been unchanged over the reference period. Before March to May 2014, the percentage of young people who were unemployed was higher than that of those who were economically inactive.
Notes for: Education and participation in the labour market
- Apprenticeship training refers to a course of training in any industry or establishment. Apprenticeship training consists of basic training (theoretical instructions) and practical on-the-job training at actual workplace.
Employment, unemployment and economic inactivity
Dataset A05 SA | Released 15 September 2020
Estimates of UK employment, unemployment and economic inactivity broken down into age bands.
Unemployment by age and duration
Dataset UNEM01 SA | Released 15 September 2020
Estimates of unemployment in the UK including a breakdown by sex, age group and the length of time people are unemployed.
For this release, young people are defined as those aged 16 to 24 years. Estimates are also produced for the age groups 16 to 17 years and 18 to 24 years and by sex.
Education and training
People are considered to be in education or training if any of the following apply:
- they are enrolled on an education course and are still attending or waiting for term to start or restart
- they are doing an apprenticeship
- they are on a government-supported employment or training programme
- they are working or studying towards a qualification
- they have had job-related training or education in the last four weeks
Young people not in education, employment or training (NEET)
Anybody who is not in any of the forms of education or training listed and not in employment is considered to be not in education, employment or training (NEET). Consequently, a person identified as NEET will always be either unemployed or economically inactive.
People not in the labour force (also known as economically inactive) are not in employment but do not meet the internationally accepted definition of unemployment because they have not been seeking work within the last four weeks and/or are unable to start work in the next two weeks. The economic inactivity rate is the proportion of people aged between 16 and 64 years who are not in the labour force.
Employment measures the number of people in paid work or who had a job that they were temporarily away from (for example, because they were on holiday or off sick). This differs from the number of jobs because some people have more than one job. The employment rate is the proportion of people aged between 16 and 64 years who are in employment. A more detailed explanation is available in our guide to labour market statistics.
Unemployment measures people without a job who have been actively seeking work within the last four weeks and are available to start work within the next two weeks. The unemployment rate is not the proportion of the total population who are unemployed. It is the proportion of the economically active population (that is, those in work plus those seeking and available to work) who are unemployed.Back to table of contents
We use the Labour force Survey (LFS), HMRC Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) Statistics and Business Impacts of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS) for the analysis in this article. Where possible, we use the latest LFS (May to July 2020) data and in some instances, we use calendar quarter LFS data for April to June 2020. LFS and BICS are surveys that gather information from a sample rather than from the whole population. The sample is designed to be as accurate as possible given practical limitations such as time and cost constraints. Therefore, the estimates used in this article have some uncertainty and are not precise figures. This can have an impact on how changes in the estimates should be interpreted, especially for short-term comparisons.
As the number of people available in the sample gets smaller, the variability of the estimates that we can make from that sample size gets larger. Estimates for small groups (for example, unemployed people aged between 16 and 17 years), which are based on small subsets of the LFS sample, are less reliable and tend to be more volatile than for larger aggregated groups (for example, the total number of unemployed people).
In general, changes in the numbers (and especially the rates) reported in this article between three-month periods are small and are not usually greater than the level that can be explained by sampling variability. Short-term movements in reported rates should be considered alongside longer-term patterns in the series and corresponding movements in other sources to give a fuller picture.
Further information is available in A guide to labour market statistics.
Information on revisions is available in the labour market statistics revisions policy.Back to table of contents
This is a quarterly labour market economic analysis article. Future quarterly analyses will focus on new developments in the labour market.Back to table of contents
Contact details for this Article
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 582512