Government, business organisations and trade unions reacted with shock at the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics, which saw figures for youth unemployment rise to 21.9%.
The data dampened moods after earlier today Business Secretary Vince Cable announced new measures to boost the amount of young people in apprenticeships.
The percentage of 16-24 year olds currently unemployed surpasses all figures since comparable records began in 1992. Total unemployment increased by 129,000 in the last quarter (July – September). This saw total unemployment figures rise to 2.62 million, the highest figure since 1994.
Commenting on today’s labour market statistics, Ian Brinkley, director of The Work Foundation, said: “These are dreadful figures. The overall fall in employment of nearly 200,000 in a single quarter takes us back to the worst days of the recession.”
“With little prospect of a revival of economic growth in the face of contracting domestic demand and a Europe-wide economic slowdown, further job losses and even higher unemployment in 2012 are unavoidable,” he added. “As ever, it is the young who are feeling the worst effects as firms stop hiring. Autumn Statement due on November 29 must set out a credible plan for growth, not just public austerity, if confidence is to be restored.”
John Cridland, director-general of the business lobbying organisation CBI, commented: “These figures underline why we need urgent action to help our young people take their first steps in the labour market. A generation risks being scarred by the devastating effects of long-term unemployment.”
He echoed the demands for the government to take action on youth unemployment, saying: “We are calling for action for jobs now, with a clear plan to get the UK working, focusing on our young people.”
Carmen Watson, managing director of Pertemps Recruitment Partnership, said, “We are in danger of seeing an entire generation of young people falling through the holes of a system designed to create employment. It may be too early to expect to see the results of the Government’s Work Programme, which was introduced earlier this year, but in the meantime, thousands more young people are becoming disaffected by the harsh and challenging conditions we’re seeing in the job market.”
Speaking directly to TM, Watson commented on how the manufacturing industry can help to plug the unemployment gap. “Manufacturers have to provide for new and different outlets,” she said. “Young, creative people can help them to do this.”
Watson emphasised the importance of apprenticeships in providing jobs for young people, and the talent needed within the manufacturing industry. She added: “Apprenticeship schemes are a great way for young people to make themselves hireable within the jobs market.”