Many young people are having to up-skill or re-train, to find jobs in the wake of the Covid-19 recession.
Exclusive Infometrics analysis obtained by Newstalk ZB shows about 20,000 fewer under-30s are in paid work, compared to a year ago.
The Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni says the Government is tackling the challenge, with programmes like Apprenticeship Boost and Mana in Mahi.
But she says the trend was anticipated, as young people are often disadvantaged in a tight labour market.
She says young people are less likely to have skills or experience - and they usually work in those industries hardest hit by Covid.
It's a rosier picture for those over 30 -- with almost 18,000 more over-30s employed than a year ago.
Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen says young workers are often the first cab off the rank when businesses have to cut staff.
He says the country now has a number of people not in work, finding it difficult to find a job, and at risk of becoming long-term dependent.
Olsen says many young people are now studying or training, so they can compete with a large pool of talented workers.
He says they're often studying because they can't find a job, something which also happened during the Global Financial Crisis.