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Youth unemployment/inactivity a mixed picture, says ONS survey

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Unemployment as a proportion of all 16-to-24-year-olds rose during the recession of 2008-09, but less sharply than the rise in the youth unemployment rate, which measures unemployment as a percentage of the economically active population, analysis from the Office for National Statistics, published on Friday, has shown.

During the 2008-09 recession, the rise in the proportion of young people who were unemployed was coupled with a rise in the proportion who were inactive. This meant that there was a large drop in the proportion who were employed, leading to a sharp rise in the unemployment rate.

For people aged 16-24, both the unemployment rate and the unemployment proportion (that is, unemployment as a percentage of total population of that age group) fell steadily after the peak in 1992-1993, before levelling out between 2001 and 2004. Both measures then increased slightly between 2005 and 2007 before rising sharply in 2008.

But whereas the youth unemployment rate rose from 14% in the first quarter of 2008 to 20% in the first quarter of 2011 - an increase of over two-fifths - the rise in the unemployment proportion was more modest, from 9.4% to 12.8%, or about a third up.

The main driver for the increase in inactivity for younger people since 1992 has been their participation in full-time education.

The percentage of 16-to-17-year-olds who were inactive and in full-time education hovered around 40% in the early to mid 1990s. It dropped slightly between 1995 and 1997, but has been on the increase since 1997. It rose more sharply during the 2008-09 recession. The percentage of 18-to-24-year-olds who were inactive and in full-time education has been increasing steadily since 1992.