Young adult unemployment

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • The ‘unemployment rate’ is the proportion of the ‘economically active’ population who are not working (i.e. the number who are unemployed divided by the number who are either in paid work or unemployed, excluding those who are ‘economically inactive’ from both the numerator and the denominator).
  • The unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds has risen sharply in the current recession, from 12% in 2008 to 19% in 2010.  As a result, the rate is now above its level of the mid-1990s (1995 is the earliest year for which data is available).  Note that small sample sizes means that there is some uncertainty about the precise rate in any given year.
  • Although the unemployment rate for older workers also rose sharply between 2008 and 2010, it is still much lower than in the mid 1990s.  The net result is that the unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds is now more than three times the rate for older workers.  By contrast, in the mid-1990s, it was less than twice the rate for older workers.
  • Around two-fifths of all those who are unemployed are now aged under 25.

Definitions and data sources

This indicator looks at unemployment with focus on the 16- to 24-year-old group, not only because unemployment has been higher for this group than for older workers but also because unemployment at this age can make it harder for someone to complete the transition from childhood to adulthood.

The first graph shows the unemployment rate for those aged 16 to 24, compared with those aged 25 and over (up to retirement).

The second graph shows the same information but in terms of the actual numbers unemployed.

The third graph shows how unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds in Northern Ireland compares with the regions of Great Britain.  To improve its statistical reliability, the data is the average for the latest three years.

‘Unemployment’ is the ILO definition, which is used for the official government unemployment numbers.  It comprises all those with no paid work in the survey week who were available to start work in the next fortnight and who either looked for work in the last month or were waiting to start a job already obtained.

The unemployment rate is the percentage of the economically active population who are unemployed (i.e. the number who are unemployed divided by the number who are either in paid work or unemployed).

The data source for all the graphs is the Labour Force Survey (LFS).  The figures for each year are the average for the four quarters of the relevant year.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  The LFS is a large, well-established, quarterly government survey designed to be representative of the population as a whole but the use of a particular age group means that the sample sizes are relatively small.