Young workers have been hit the hardest by rising unemployment during the Covid pandemic, with those under the age of 35 accounting for almost 80% of jobs lost in the past year.

Official figures show youth long-term unemployment has hit a five-year high, with more than 200,000 under 25s out of work for more than six months. Employment is also falling even as the number of people in work begins to rise for every other age group, reflecting the cumulative impact of lockdowns and young adults bearing the brunt of job cuts.

The Guardian spoke to three young people about the pressures they are under as they try to get a foothold on the jobs market during the worst public health emergency and economic downturn in living memory.

Alex, 24, Glasgow

After rejection from cybersecurity jobs and graduate schemes was followed by failure to land work as a checkout assistant or a hospital cleaner, Alex, a 24-year-old graduate from Glasgow, is worried.

“I’ve spent over half a year unemployed, to the point I’m desperate to get something,” said the international relations postgraduate, who asked to withhold his surname. On universal credit and having moved back in with his parents, he has been told by the Job Centre he is unlikely to find any employment in the near future while the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

“They’re trying to be realistic, sending out jobs I can apply for. But they’ve got a lot of people applying for every one of them. I don’t think they’re very hopeful I’ll get one.”

At first Alex searched for jobs related to his degree, with dreams of working for the UN. After six months unemployed he’s applying for anything he can find, still without success.

“It’s the first time in my life really where I’m out of education without planning on going back, and the first time it feels like I can’t get a job for some reason. Besides the elderly, the younger people are facing the biggest brunt of all this at the moment. That’s certainly the way I feel, having just left uni.”

Anisah Arif, 24, Bradford

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