These show that, in the last 12 months, the number of under-24 year-olds in work fell by 319,000. Although under-24s accounted for only 14% of workers in Q4 2008, they account for 64.3% of the net jobs lost. The recession, then, has borne disproportionately upon the young.
By contrast, the number of people of retirement age in work rose by 68,000 (5.1%) in the last 12 months. 12.1% of people of pensionable age - one-in-eight - is now in work.
Many of those young people who have lost their jobs have dropped out of the labour market. Economic inactivity among 16-24 year-olds has risen by 240,000 or 10% in the last year.
Granted, this increase is almost entirely due to increased numbers of students; the student population has grown by 217,000 in the last year. But is this a good thing? Yes, if people prefer to study. But the number of economically inactive people who say they’d like a job has risen by 224,000 (to 2.33 million) in the last year. This suggests quite a few students would rather be in work.
In one sense, this shift to employing older workers is an artefact of the growth in part-time employment, which suits older people more than youngsters; in the last 12 months, part-time jobs have risen by 157,000 whilst full-time ones have fallen by 585,000.
There are, though, two reasons for concern here.
First, these figures suggest that many employers, when they are in a buyers’ market, would rather hire old people. Might this be a sign that younger people are considered ill-prepared for work, lacking either skills or discipline (or subservience and malleability)?
Secondly, there’s good evidence that youth unemployment has a scarring effect, particularly for the unskilled (pdf); people who are unemployed when young are more likely to be unemployed later, and likely to earn less even if they have jobs.