According to the Resolution Foundation, although young people were disproportionately likely to lose their jobs at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, their employment prospects began to improve from spring 2021.

In reality, the youth unemployment crisis feared by many at the start of the pandemic did not transpire and by early autumn 2021, the 18-24-year-old unemployment rate was lower than it had been just before the pandemic. This success was in part due to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough), which protected jobs throughout the pandemic, and to young people’s swift re-entry to work after social-distancing restrictions eased.

Moreover, many young people were able to ‘ride out’ the economic impacts of the pandemic by entering education: the proportion of young people aged 18-24 in full-time education increased by 3% from the pre-pandemic period, to 35% (an increase of 119,000).

Overall, the Resolution Foundation found that one-in-three 18-24-year-old respondents (and nearly one-in-four surveyed 18-34-year-olds overall) who had been in work on the eve of Covid-19 experienced extended periods of worklessness during the pandemic, which can scar their employment and pay prospects in the longer term. Secondly, one-third of younger respondents who had fallen out of work during the winter 2021 lockdown have since returned to work on insecure contracts. Thirdly, despite the fact that unemployment hasn’t risen among young people over recent quarters, the share of 18-24-year-olds who are economically inactive and not in full-time study has grown slightly since spring last year, especially among men. And finally, all of these changes are associated with higher-than-average mental health risks.

Although there is much to celebrate in relation to the labour market for younger people, policy makers and employers face challenges on two fronts: –

1) Ensuring that employment support services help younger people who’ve experienced worklessness to avoid longer-term employment and mental health scarring;

2) Making sure that all younger people – be they entering work for the first time or in need of a new job – have access to good quality work that will help them develop and progress over their working lives.

Some groups of young people have been more likely than others to experience significant amounts of worklessness throughout the course of the pandemic young people aged 18-24 were the age group most likely to have experienced extended worklessness (having been unemployed, fully furloughed or self-employed without work for three months or more) over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. Previous Resolution Foundation research found that 33% of 18-24-year-olds who were in work in February 2020 experienced extended worklessness, compared to 21% of all working-age adults, and the impact on younger people has been unequal.

Additionally, their were  differences by education level, with 30% of surveyed non-graduates aged 18-34 who were in work before the pandemic having experienced extended worklessness, compared to 19% of their graduate counterparts., while 28% of younger people from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds who were in work before the pandemic experienced extended worklessness, compared to 22% of their White counterparts.

To read the full Resolution Foundation research please click here.