'Worst 12 months of my life': Furloughed 19-year-old spends year job hunting

A 19-year-old from Deeside who has spent the last year searching for a job has described the "worst 12 months" of his life.

Calhoun Newell was furloughed from his job in a supermarket cafe at the start of the pandemic.

Despite applying for "any job" since, the teenager is still looking for work.

Calhourn said: "Not too many opportunities around here at the moment.

"Because I'm young and I've got no qualifications I've been struggling really badly.

"I might have to go back to college to get better grades in my GCSEs - hopefully that'll give me more opportunities."

Young people have been among the hardest hit by unemployment during the pandemic.

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that in February 2021 there were 693,000 fewer workers on payrolls than in February 2020.

More than 60% of the total fall in employment over the past year was for those aged under-25.

Calhoun said living in lockdown and his struggle to find a job job has had a negative impact on his mental health.

"It's been really hard on my mental health," he explained.

"I've been getting really bad anxiety and panic attacks when I'm out in public.

"If I can find myself a job - something to keep my mind occupied - I should be alright for the future."

A study from the Mental Health Foundation has found that young people were more likely to struggle with loneliness as a result of the pandemic, with 48% of those surveyed in February reporting feeling alone.

The survey also highlighted that young adults, aged 18-24-year-olds, full-time students, people who are unemployed, were also significantly more likely to be feeling distressed, across a range of measures, compared with UK adults generally.

  • Analysis by Work and Economy Correspondent Carole Green

Calhoun's experience is far from unique. Young people like him have been the most likely to be furloughed. Across the UK, 47% of jobs filled by workers aged 24 and under were furloughed - compared to 32% of all jobs.

That's because over the last 10 years, young people - particularly young women - were more likely to be working in "shutdown sectors" like hospitality, tourism, retail and leisure. These sectors are big employers in Wales and relatively more important to the Welsh Economy than to others areas of the UK.

The good news is that Wales is faring slightly better than the average across the UK and the claimant rate is beginning to fall. As lockdown eases, and more sectors get back up and running to capacity, more opportunities will come through. The hope is to avoid the United Nation's stark warning that we could lose a "lockdown generation" to unemployment for the rest of their lives. 

There is more help out there than ever. If you've lost your job or are unemployed, the Welsh Government's React programme helps people back into work or to start your own business. There's online training for furloughed workers to learn new skills, childcare support for parents training or looking for work. There's also employment support specifically for people in recovery from mental ill health, substance or alcohol misuse. The UK Government's Kickstart scheme also provides work opportunities for young people.