The limitations of the unemployment rate as a measure of labour market conditions among the youth population is acknowledged by Eurostat, who now publish both the ratio and the rate for the population aged 15-24. (Their recent figures for Ireland for 2011 are low and may not reflect the latest Census returns.)
The distinction between the unemployment rate and ratio certainly matters. Data in the recently-released 2011 Census of Population volume This is Ireland Part 2 show the population classified by ‘principal economic status’. These reveal an unemployment rate of 38.7 per cent among the population aged 15-24 compared with an unemployment ratio of 14.2 per cent. While the ratio of 14.2 per cent gives no grounds for complacency, it is less alarming than the headline rate of almost 40 per cent.
It is perhaps even more important to note that the unemployment ratio has not risen as dramatically as the unemployment rate since the onset of the recession in 2008. The Figure displays the two concepts based on the 2006 and 2011 Census data.