person holding a pen and job contract

London unemployment levels have more than halved for 16-24 year olds over the last decade

Unemployment has more than halved for Londoners under the age of 25, according to data collected over 2014 to 2024 by the ONS.

Typically you would expect fresh graduates to struggle securing a job straight out of high school or university.

However, 18-24 year old Londoners have seen the biggest percentage decrease in unemployment (65.7% decrease) out of all the other age groups, followed second by 16-17 year olds (43.55% decrease), a combined decrease of 61.6%.

Esther Kovoor, 29, employability manager for youth work charity XLP, who works with school children and young adults up to 24 years old, said: “There is such a creativity, is what I am observing with the young people I am working with.

“There’s so much interest in working with animals, the arts, drawing and anime and film.

“I think there is a genuine excitement about work and possible industries that they can get into which is quite exciting.”

One possible reason she gave for the decrease in unemployment in this age group is the rise of internship opportunities and graduate schemes, as well as how apprenticeships are less stigmatised now than they were 20 years ago.

Kovoor said: “The opportunities and the openness from companies to open those types of vacancies is a lot more present than it was back then.

“This generation are also super resilient, they’ve lived through such a unique time.

“Living through the pandemic, having to adapt to what schooling looked like during that time, the typical curriculum and having to be quite innovative in how they use their time at home, it doesn’t surprise me that there is that little bit of resilience that has been built up.”

Yet the pandemic also took a toll on 18-24 year olds, as economic inactivity for this age group was at an all time high during this period.

Although every generation was hit with a stark rise in unemployment from the pandemic, 18-24 year olds were the most unemployed age group by the end of 2019 and for most of 2020.

Kovoor spoke about the biggest challenge that they are seeing young people face is with their mental health, social anxiety and a lack of knowledge on how to socialise or contend with small talk.

She said: “Looking back to 2023 to now, the barrier was actually getting a young person to even leave their house because that structure of coming out of your house and going to school, having that regular social interaction was taken away from them and replaced with meeting people online.

“With the access young people have to information right now, they also have access to quite distressing things on the news and social media that might not necessarily be true or fact checked and that is causing increased levels of anxiety and maybe hopelessness.”

Julius Probst, Labour Economist at Totaljobs, a digital recruitment platform, said: “The number of young people claiming health benefits instead of unemployment benefits, often related to mental health issues, is a new crisis that policy makers need to address.

“Another point of concern is that economic inactivity for 18-24 year-olds has increased since early 2020.”

As showcased by the graph above, the unemployment rate steadily increased from February 2020 and reached it’s highest rate by November 2020.

This generally recovered by April 2021, before temporarily going up again in August 2021.

Since September 2021 onwards however, the trend of unemployment seems to be in decline as the age group begins re-entering the work force.

Although the unemployment rates for 18-24 year olds have dramatically halved over the last decade, Probst warns that the stark percentage change in unemployment can actually indicate economic instability. 

This is because unemployment rates for 18-24 year olds have more pronounced peaks and extreme troughs from month to month than any other age group (which tend to show more consistent patterns).

Probst said: “Younger workers are often the first to be affected during economic ups and downs.

“Gen Z has faced the most volatile labour market conditions with economic fragility affecting them severely.

“This is likely to continue because many workers in this age group are working in roles that can face ‘fire and rehire’ strategies.”

A 23 year old who has been unemployed for just over a year since graduating said: “Post-pandemic, the job market is extremely competitive. Frustrated does not begin to cover how I am feeling.”

Hence while it may appear positive that there are less unemployed 18-24 year olds now than there were a decade ago, the data also indicates this age group experiencing a more volatile job market with extremes highs and lows as the economy changes over time.

Related Articles