Covid UK: Young black workers more likely to be jobless as whites

Young black workers are three times as likely to be jobless as whites with more than 40 per cent unemployed – as high as time of Brixton riots

  • Young black workers three times more likely to be jobless than white workers
  • ONS figures show 41.6% of black people aged 16-24 were jobless in Q4 2020
  • Black youth unemployment rate equivalent to period of the Brixton riots in 80s 

Young black workers are three times as likely to be unemployed as white workers, with more than 40 per cent without jobs in further damning evidence of the harm done to the economy by coronavirus lockdowns. 

Between October and December last year, 41.6 per cent of black people aged 16 to 24 were jobless – the highest rate since the 2008-09 financial crisis, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The black youth unemployment rate was equivalent to the early 1980s, when the Brixton riots broke out. Meanwhile, joblessness among white workers stood at around 12 per cent, the Guardian reports. 

Before the pandemic, between January and March 2020, 10 per cent of young white workers were jobless compared with 25.3 per cent of young black people.

Between October and December last year, 41.6 per cent of black people aged 16 to 24 were unemployed. Before the pandemic, between January and March 2020, 10 per cent of young white workers were jobless compared with 25.3 per cent of young black people

ONS figures show that the jobless rate among young black people shot up by 64.4 per cent compared with 17 per cent for their white counterparts nine months on.

Economists fear that young black people are bearing the brunt of the Covid-19 economic crisis and are warning of the high risk of ‘hyper-cyclical unemployment’ for young people black people which would cause jobless rates to rise higher for ethnic minority communities than white people.

It comes two weeks after the Government’s derided race disparity report said that the pay gap between minority ethnic and white workers was currently at its lowest level in nearly a decade, at 2.3 per cent.

In 1981, the year of the Brixton riots, 18.7 per cent of young black people were unemployed compared with 17.2 per cent of young white people, according to an analysis of the General Household Survey.  

A year later, the rate shot up to 41.8 per cent for young black people compared with 22.9 per cent for their white counterparts. 

Regents Street in central London on April 7, 2021 ahead of the easing of the third lockdown

Sarah Arnold, a senior economist at the New Economics Foundation, said young minority ethnic workers were already disproportionately likely to be in less secure employment before the pandemic. 

Halima Begum, the director of the Runnymede Trust, told the Guardian she was ‘absolutely appalled’ by the figures and called on the Government to  acknowledge major ’employment fragility’ in BAME communities,. 

The ONS said the data was weighted to official population projections from 2018, contained estimates of the number of 16- to 24-year-olds in the labour market and was not seasonally adjusted. 

A government spokesperson said: ‘Before the pandemic we had made solid progress on lifting the employment rate to a record high for ethnic minorities, helping close the unemployment gap, and we remain committed to these efforts.

‘Our Plan for Jobs is playing an important role in giving young people from all backgrounds a helping hand on their journey back to employment, whether it’s creating over 150,000 jobs through the Kickstart Scheme… or by recruiting an extra 13,500 new Work Coaches.’  

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