Working Papers

Juvenile Unemployment In 20th Century Britain

The Emergence of A Problem


During the 1980’s youth unemployment rates have persistently exceeded unemployment rates for adults, in Britain as in other OECD countries. In the interwar period, youth unemployment rates in Britain were dramatically lower than those for abdults. This paper explores possible reasons for the contrast, including demographic trends, changes in school attendance, changes in labor force participation, changes in the intensity of job search, macroeconomic conditions, shifts in the industrial composition of employment, and economy-wide changes in the share of juveniles employed (due to changes in youth/adult wage differentials, technologies or labor practices). Much of the explanation for the contrast turns out to lie in a rise in the cyclical sensitivity of youth unemployment between the interwar and postwar periods, apparently attributable to changes in hiring and redundancy practices.