Young black workers have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic, with more than 40 per cent now unemployed, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The unemployment rate for black youths between the ages of 16 and 24 is significantly higher than that of their white counterparts, of whom only 12.4 per cent were without a job in the same period.

Between October and December 2020, a total of 41.6 percent of young black workers were unemployed, a figure which is more than three times worse than that of white workers of the same age.

As a result, black youth unemployment rates are now just as bad as they were in the early 1980s when the UK was in a recession and many black people lost their jobs, sparking the Brixton riots.

Pre-pandemic, unemployment rates for young black workers stood at 25.3 per cent between January and March 2020. For white youths this figure was 10.6 per cent.

Although both black and white youths’ jobs have been affected by the pandemic, the ONS’ findings indicated that the unemployment rate grew 64.4 per cent for black youths over the nine months. However, for white youths it increased by a comparatively lower 17 per cent.

Senior economist at the New Economics Foundation, Sarah Arnold, said that young workers from an ethinc minority background were already disproportionately likely to be in less secure employment before the pandemic hit, reported The Guardian. These sorts of jobs had little or no contractual security and included fixed-term contracts, zero-hours or cash in hand employment. 

She said: “These kinds of jobs have received less protection from schemes like furlough, and it is likely this has contributed to unemployment rising much faster among these groups compared to both young white workers and the population as a whole.”

The ONS data has come amid fears that significant youth unemployment inequality could be making a return, similar to levels last seen in the early 1980s. Forty years ago, in 1981, the black youth unemployment rate more than doubled in a number of months. At the start of the year, youth unemployment for black people was 18.7 per cent, whereas for white youths it was 17.2 per cent.

However, by 1982, the rate had increased hugely for black youths to 41.8 per cent. This was in contrast with the 22.9 per cent unemployment experienced by young white workers, according to analysis of the General Household Survey.

The ONS said their data had been weighted to official population projections from 2018 and contained estimates of the number of 16- to 24-year-olds who they had predicted would be in the labour market. They also noted that figures were not seasonally adjusted and said that demographic breakdowns tended to reduce sample sizes.

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