Young people have returned to work rapidly but many have gone back to insecure jobs, new research suggests.

The Resolution Foundation said its study also found that 50,000 young men have dropped out of employment altogether over the past year and are now classed as economically inactive.

The think tank reported that problems persist even though unemployment is now lower than pre-pandemic levels.

One in three 18 to 34-year-olds have returned to atypical, often insecure work, according to the foundation, which surveyed 6,100 adults.

The report said the furlough scheme kept a lid on youth unemployment, but it could not prevent young people experiencing long periods of worklessness during the pandemic, putting them at risk of “blighted” future employment and pay prospects.

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By October 2021, three out of four young people who were in work before the pandemic but jobless during the winter lockdown had returned to work, said the report.

As a result, the unemployment rate for 18 to 24-year-olds in the three months to November fell to 9.8%, below its pre-pandemic rate of 10.5%.

The research also found that while unemployment has not increased during the pandemic, the number of 18 to 24-year-olds who are economically inactive and not in full-time study (Neets) has increased, especially among young men.

Louise Murphy, of the Resolution Foundation, said: “Young people were hit hardest by the economic impact of the pandemic but have bounced back with a swift return to work, thanks in large part to the success of the furlough scheme.

“But policymakers and employers must not become complacent. Problems persist for young people who are at risk of insecure work and economic inactivity.

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“One in three young people who experienced worklessness during the last lockdown have returned to atypical contracts, which often means insecure work. The fact that they are more likely to be looking for new or additional work suggests higher dissatisfaction with their current jobs.

“While unemployment has fallen, the number of young people dropping out of education and the labour market altogether has risen, especially young men.

“A return to the workplace, on its own, is not enough. Ensuring that young people have the confidence and knowledge to find and apply for work, and access to good quality jobs and sufficient hours, must be a priority for employers and policymakers in the months and years to come.”

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