I wonder if the best defence of the theory that the imposition of the UK National Minimum Wage didn’t hurt anybody much is that there never really was a youth unemployment “crisis”. After all, it would surely look brave to believe both that the Low Pay Commission was “successful” in setting the minimum wage, and that there was a youth unemployment crisis right after a period of imposing higher and higher minimum wages on young people in the labour market.
One way to claim there was never much of a crisis is looking at the data on NEETs – young people Not in Education, Employment or Training, rather than the standard Labour Force Survey measures of unemployment. The ONS break the NEETs data down into the 16-17 and 18-24 age group, which is helpful because being NEET has become much harder in recent years for 16- and 17-year-olds as the school leaving age has risen to 18 in England (although not the rest of the UK).
The rise in the NEET rate for the 18-24 group during the 2008 recession was much less sharp than the rise in the LFS unemployment rate for the same group. Today’s data update suggests the youth unemployment crisis is perhaps over; at 13.8% for 2015 Q3 the 18-24yrs NEET rate is only a whisker above the all time low of 13.7% in 2004.