Four-fold increase in youth unemployment in Reigate constituency

(Photo credit: Jane Snyder via Pixabay)

The number of young people in the Reigate parliamentary constituency claiming out-of-work benefits increased four-fold between March and June this year, as the coronavirus lockdown took effect.

In March, just 2% of people aged 18-24 in the constituency were claiming job seeker’s allowance or universal credit, but by June that figure had risen to 8%.

That is a greater rate of increase than in most other UK constituencies, but the actual number of young claimants is relatively low compared to other parts of the country.

The figures are the result of analysis by the BBC’s Shared Data Unit, based on official statistics.

What are the detailed figures for Reigate?
There were a total of 2,625 people of all ages (16+) claiming universal credit or jobseeker’s allowance in June in the Reigate constituency.

Of those, 510 were aged 18-24, making up 8% of that age group in Reigate.

In March the figure was only 2%.

Figures for the slightly wider age range of 16-24 show a three-fold increase in the constituency March to June (2% to 6%), with 515 claimants in June.

How does Reigate compare with other constituencies?
Reigate is in the top tenth of all 650 UK constituencies in terms of the proportional increase of claimants aged 18-24, March to June.

However, measured by actual numbers of young claimants, Reigate ranks much more favourably at joint 526th out of 650.

What's the national position?
Across the UK, the number of claimants aged 18-24 doubled between March and June

How is the pandemic affecting job opportunities for young people?
Professor Guy Michaels, London School of Economics, said of the national figures: “I think in general young people have certain entry pathways into the labour market.

“The hospitality sector is an important one.

“It offers people work even if they don’t have a huge amount of experience or completed formal skills.

“This means that young people really have this stepping stone that they take in the start of their careers.

“After the recession, it took quite a few years for the youth unemployment to recover; it might take three or four years to start coming down.

“Each recession is different but there is a worry that this isn’t going to go anywhere quickly.

“It is important that the public policy response is strong. But whatever the usual arguments are in terms of incentivising young people to work – it’s clear that the vacancies aren’t there.

“Part of the numbers are not there yet. As much as the figures show a sharp rise, this perhaps understates the underlying problem because of the furloughing scheme which has been successful at preserving jobs.

“It’s true that once support goes, some businesses will go under. Some jobs will disappear even if jobs survive.”

Professor Michaels said research shows the “first few years” of a young person’s career see them progress most rapidly in the workplace.

Laura-Jane Rawlings, chief executive of organisation Youth Employment UK, said: “There can be a negative effect of entering the labour market during a recession – there can be a scarring of individuals that enter at this time.

“It’s not just about having one or two bad years it can be persistent. The people hit the most are people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“There is a good reason to suggest these figures have been understated because of the furlough scheme – the real issue will be months down the line if businesses don’t survive.”