1. Economics
March 11, 2016

The north-south divide in England's youth unemployment rate is still the size of a chasm

By Jonn Elledge

The latest instalment of our weekly series, in which we use the Centre for Cities’ data tools to crunch some of the numbers on Britain’s cities.

First, a confession: last week in this space I purported to write about the north-south divide the size of a chasm in England’s youth unemployment rate, using the percentage claiming unemployment benefits as a proxy.

Except, I screwed up. At some point, I pressed the wrong button, pulled out the wrong set of data and didn’t notice. What the numbers I was looking at actually showed was the general claimant count – the percentage of the working age population currently claiming out of work benefits – as opposed to the youth version, which only covers 16-24 year olds.

This doesn’t really affect my conclusions (which were, you’ll recall, “Oh my god what is wrong with this country”). But in the name of accuracy I’ve corrected the original story.

This week, since I failed to do it last week, let’s try looking once again at the proportion of 18-24 year olds claiming unemployment benefits, and this time actually get it right. Fire up the datatron!

The picture is not, it must be said, radically different from the general claimant count. Barnsley, which turned out to have surprisingly low claimant rates, fares much worse in the 18-24 category. Aberdeen has gone from “doing pretty well” to “doing brilliantly”.

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But generally there’s a pretty close correlation between unemployment among the young and unemployment among everyone. Look:

(We’ve labelled Barnsley to show quite how much of an outlier it is.)

In fact, when you look at the data by region, you can see that – while a few cities move around the distribution – the regional pattern is basically the same. Northern and Welsh cities have higher youth unemployment than southern ones, the Midlands sits somewhere in the middle, and Scotland is pretty divided. Here’s the youth claimant count, with cities coloured by region…

Click to expand.

…and here’s the general one:

Click to expand.

It’s worth noting that even the highest claimant counts aren’t that bad by international standards. In January 2016 Eurostat (which, as you can tell from the numbers, takes a broader measure of these things), currently puts Britain’s youth unemployment rate at around 13.6 per cent. In Spain, it’s 45 per cent; in Greece it’s 48. Things could be worse.

But nonetheless, with apologies for repeating myself, but last week’s conclusion remains the same. The weird thing is not that there’s so much disquiet about economic division in this country. The weird thing is that there isn’t more of it.


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