Is youth unemployment down 40%?

11 May 2018
What was claimed

Youth unemployment is down by over 40%.

Our verdict

Correct. The number of unemployed 16-24 year olds has fallen by 43% between 2010 and 2018.

What was claimed

There are 480,000 young people who are hidden from the unemployment figures.

Our verdict

Incorrect. This seems to come from a misunderstanding of a report looking at the number of young people who are out of work, and not claiming benefits or being supported by job centres. These young people still appear in the unemployment figures, although they will not appear in the claimant count figures of people claiming benefits.

“Youth unemployment has come down by over 40%.”

Esther McVey MP, 10 May 2018

“I'm really worried when you say that youth unemployment has come down in that number, Esther, because we know that there is a growing hidden population of our young people who are NEETS. Your civil servants recognise, that there are over 480,000 young people who are vulnerable from being hidden from that labour market and they are not included in those figures.”

BBC Question Time audience member, 10 May 2018

It’s correct that youth unemployment is down by around 40%. The unemployment rate for 16-24s has fallen from 19.6% to 12% since the Conservatives entered government in coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2010.

921,000 16-24s were estimated to be unemployed in May-Jul 2010, compared to 525,000 now. That’s a fall of 43%.

In the three months between December 2017 and February 2018 there were:

  • 3.8 million people in work between the ages of 16 and 24 (including 861,000 full-time students with part-time jobs)
  • 525,000 unemployed people of the same age (including 173,000 full-time students looking for part-time work)
  • 2.7 million economically inactive people—meaning they didn’t have a paid job and weren’t looking for one—about two million of these were full-time students

The Office for National Statistics notes: “It is a common misconception that all people in full-time education are classified as economically inactive. This is not the case as people in full-time education are included in the employment estimates if they have a part-time job and are included in the unemployment estimates if they are seeking part-time work.”

It’s wrong to say, as an audience member did, that 480,000 young people are excluded from these figures. It seems to be a misunderstanding of a report into a related issue.

The unemployment figures come from the Labour Force Survey done by the Office for National Statistics, which surveys 40,000 households and 100,000 people every three months to try to get a representative picture of employment in the UK.

Those same figures were used by campaigners to estimate that 480,000 young people are both “out of work and not claiming benefits” and not getting support from job centres. They describe these people as “‘hidden’ within ‘NEET’ statistics”.

‘NEET’ refers to people who are Not in Employment, Education, or Training. The report argues that “It’s also easy to assume that these young people will be receiving support through the benefits system and through Job Centre Plus”, but as not all of them are receiving support, those who aren’t can be described as ‘hidden’ from the support system.

Those 480,000 people are covered by the Labour Force Survey and included in the employment and unemployment statistics.

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