The proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds not in employment, education or training (NEETs) has risen to 18.4%, according to figures released today by the Department for Education (DfE).
The figure, for the second quarter of 2011, is an increase from last year's second quarter figure of 16.3%, and is the highest second-quarter figure since 2006, when comparable data was first collected.
The increase is further proof of the challenges facing younger workers and jobseekers as they seek to gain a foothold in the labour market, and has led some commentators to suggest that there is no quick solution in sight.
Jim Hillage, director of research at the Institute for Employment Studies, said: "The labour market is a very tough place to be for young people at the moment. Young adults who can't find an apprenticeship or a college place are finding it particularly hard to compete for jobs against older, more experienced, jobseekers not just from this country but also from the rest of Europe. Unfortunately, it seems likely that the situation will get worse before it gets better, as the economic recovery falters and job growth stalls."
The DfE figures come a day after the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) released its latest Labour Market Outlook figures, which found that recruitment demand for school leavers has fallen since last year, while employer demand for migrant workers has reached a record high.
According to the CIPD's findings, more employers said that they plan to hire EU migrant workers (34%) than up-skill existing workers (23%) or recruit more graduates (18%). Almost one employer in 10 (8%) say that they would relocate jobs abroad.
Meanwhile, only 12% of employers plan to hire 16-year-old school leavers in the three months to September 2011, down from 14%. Similarly, the number of employers planning to recruit school leavers aged 17-18 and older fell to a quarter (25%) from almost one-third (31%) in the same period.
Gerwyn Davies, public policy adviser at the CIPD, said: "Youth unemployment looks set to rise further amid employer concerns about the employability of young people. The migration cap is stemming the flow of skilled non-EU migrant workers on the one hand, but increasing the supply of EU workers with the other, which highlights the relative ineffectiveness of the cap in bringing net migration levels down.
"Employers seem eager to take full advantage of this, to make use of their positive attitude and their skills. The perception among many of our members is that too many young people in the UK do not have these qualities, which may explain why fewer young people are being hired. At a time when many school leavers will be looking for work and the number of job opportunities is falling, youth unemployment could increase more sharply in the coming months. The Government therefore needs to redouble efforts to ensure the education and skills system is fit for purpose to ensure young people can find a foothold in an increasingly competitive jobs market."
XpertHR has information available on how employers can help to reduce unemployment and social exclusion.
And for further information on young workers, see XpertHR's reference manual.