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Monday, August 17, 2009

Don’t take statistics at face value – especially when they are about employment

Last week I wrote about the unemployment data in the UK and gave the impression that whilst all was not hunky dory with the over-50s it was youth unemployment that was creating the major problems. I was, I am ashamed to say, following the media trend of focusing on Yoof. Laurie South, who runs PRIME, contacted me to put the situation straight.

This is a summary of what he said.
Though both groups have a hard time in a recession, oldsters who drop off the employment ladder are having a harder time even than the youngsters taking their first steps onto it. It is this story - about the difficulty that older have finding work, that is rarely told.

Too many commentators appear to have rushed in and grabbed the first figure they could find (I hang my head in shame), so anxious were they to “expose” a huge rise in youth unemployment. They all made the elementary error of assuming that those who were economically inactive were all unemployed and completely forgot that nearly one million people aged 18 - 24 are in full-time education.

When the data is adjusted for full-time education amongst the 16/17 year olds and the 18 - 24 year olds, it is quite apparent that these cohorts are faring betting than others.

That is not to say that everything is rosy - one person in ten aged 18 - 24 economically inactive is not good news. But compare it with worklessness in the 50 to State Pension Age cohort. One in four is economically inactive in this age group according to these data.
So there you are. Thanks Laurie for your note and the detailed analysis of the data. Dick Stroud

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