Youth unemployment stops just short of ‘million milestone’ as class of 2011 enters jobs market

The UK’s youth unemployment rate today edged ever closer to the psychologically important “million milestone,” with the release of latest unemployment data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Today’s figures reveal that the number of unemployed 16 to 24 year olds stood at 991,000 between June and August 2011. This represents an increase of 74,000 on the youth unemployment number recorded between March and May 2011.

“The unemployment level and rate for people aged from 16 to 24 are the highest since comparable records began in 1992,” according to the ONS.

The Guardian notes that “the figures have been swollen by the number of graduates and school-leavers who have failed to find work after joining the jobs market this summer.”

The youth unemployment rate was 21.3% over the three months between June and August 2011, an increase of 1.6 percentage points on the previous quarter.

However, the ONS also reports an alternative measure of youth unemployment. This measure, which was introduced in its April 2011 data release, measures the youth unemployment rate “excluding people in full-time education.” According to this measure, there were 721,000 unemployed 16 to 24 year olds between June and August 2011.

This alternative measure of youth unemployment was introduced by ONS back in Spring 2011 in response to pressure from Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith.

Iain Duncan Smith called for ONS to change how it reports levels of youth unemployment, from what he described as a tendency to focus on the “misleading” internationally-accepted measure of youth unemployment.

Economist David Blanchflower argued at the time that Iain Duncan Smith’s attack on the internationally-accepted measure of youth unemployment was motivated by a desire to distract attention from the fact that youth unemployment was fast approaching “the million milestone” – a milestone which it has now passed with the release of today’s figures.

In a comment posted here on the XpertHR Employment Intelligence blog, Blanchflower expanded on his argument, stating that “Complacency saying there isn’t a problem doesn’t help.”

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