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UK youth unemployment rate continues to rise; young black men are particularly affected

Author: Trust for London

The number of young people in work is now at a low of 3.5 million, official ONS figures show today (10 November 2020).

Statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed the UK’s overall unemployment rate rose to 4.8% in the three months to September, up from 4.5%. A breakdown of the data shows that there was a big fall in the number of 16 to 24-year-olds in employment, decreasing by 174,000 to a record low of 3.5 million.

Whilst the ONS figures do not break down unemployment figures by ethnicity, a Government survey[1] has shown that unemployment rates for young black men are rising sharply and far faster than for other young people. Young black men in London are up to three times more likely to be unemployed as young white men. For graduates the disparity is even starker; young black male graduates are up to four times more likely to be unemployed than young white male graduates.

To address these disparities, the Mayor of London and partners from Moving on Up - a partnership programme working to address employment inequalities for young black men - have launched an Inclusive Employer Toolkit to support employers to take action on workforce diversity and inclusion. The toolkit aims to help employers improve the recruitment, retention and progression of young black men within the workplace and more broadly improve employment outcomes for young black men across London. 

Commenting on the latest unemployment figures, Jeremy Crook, Director of Moving on Up, said:

“Unemployment has devastating consequences for young people. The longer someone is out of work, the more long-term damage is done to their career prospects and livelihoods. It’s not right that young black men experience more unemployment than young men of other ethnicities. We need to act now to tackle the fastest spike in unemployment on record and address this injustice.”

“Employers can help tackle employment inequalities for young black men by: reviewing their workforces to check if one in five of the young men they employ are young black men; setting targets for recruiting young black men; monitoring ethnicity in their recruitment processes; and joining the Moving on Up initiative to learn and share good practice.”

A young black male ambassador for the Moving on Up programme who wished to remain anonymous said:

“One in five of all young men in London are from black ethnic groups. Young black men have the same career hopes and dreams as other young people, but fewer opportunities are available to us and negative or discriminatory experiences during recruitment processes are commonplace. We want to work for companies that offer us a chance to learn new skills, where our voices are listened to and where we can make a difference for the employer.”

Bola Abisogun OBE, Chair of Moving on Up Advisory Group, said:

“When we started Moving on Up back in 2014 the unemployment rate for young black men was over 50%. The disturbing new unemployment figures show we are heading in the same direction. We can’t allow that to happen. We know employers have had difficult conversations following the death of George Floyd and we also know are these are very difficult times for UK plc but we can’t afford to go backwards. We want the government to use all the levers they have including apprenticeships, funding and supply chains.”


About Moving on Up
Moving on Up is a partnership led by Trust for London, City Bridge Trust, the Black Training and Enterprise Group, the Mayor of London’s Workforce Integration Network, and a cohort of young black men. We work with local authorities, jobs centres, the voluntary sector and other agencies to address employment disparities for young black men in London.

Black = from Black Caribbean, Black African, Black British, Black Other and Mixed Black ethnic groups
Young = aged 16 to 24

[1] Young black male unemployment rates
Source: Annual Population Survey
The small size of the sample of young black men in this survey means that single year figures may not be reliable. The average of annual unemployment rates for the last three years gives a more robust estimate.

Three year average April 2017/March18 to April 2019/March 20:
Unemployment rate for young black men in London = 29%,
Unemployment rate for young white young men in London= 13%
Unemployment rate for young black male graduates in London = 35%
Unemployment rates for young white male graduates in London = 8%