Young people are at risk of a "once in a generation" job crisis as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it's been claimed.
The jobless rate for 16 to 24-year-olds here doubled to 11.8% between March and August, according to a government update yesterday.
But Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the rate could go as high as 25% in the downturn triggered by the pandemic and lockdown.
The overall unemployment rate for June to August was 3.7% - up 1.2 percentage points, the biggest quarterly rise since 2012.
East Antrim DUP Sammy Wilson claimed the figures highlight the cost of lockdown, as he cautioned the Executive against further restrictions.
A youth jobless rate of 25% means one in four young people who are looking for a job will not be able to find one.
Mark Dougan, the NI director of youth charity The Prince's Trust - which helps people into jobs - said the outlook for young people looking for work could become more severe than the aftermath of the 2007/8 credit crunch.
Joanne Stuart of the NI Tourism Alliance has also warned that businesses in tourism - a major employer of young people - are facing into an "abyss" as the end of the furlough scheme looms later this month.
At the end of July, the scheme was supporting 102,600 jobs in Northern Ireland. Mr Dougan said the growing risk of joblessness "is a devastating blow for young people, particularly school and university leavers".
"Young people are often employed in hospitality, tourism and retail, where jobs are just evaporating. I am deeply concerned. I feel we're on a cliff edge in a once in a generation youth crisis which could surpass the crash of 2008 and the impact it had.
"The key thing is the scarring effect of long-term unemployment on young people.
"It's not just their skill-set which suffers but it's about their mental health. Without a job, they come more anxious, perhaps unable to secure full-time work but with bouts of insecure work, which doesn't help their development in long-term."
He cited a UK-wide survey by the Prince's Trust last month highlighting an "aspirational gap", with nearly half of young people feeling that finding a job seemed impossible and that their generation would have fewer opportunities than their parents.
Even young people in work were losing out on face to face contact and mentorship with peers and older colleagues as a result of the need to work from home, he said. And the increased use of remote working tools like virtual meetings was leaving some with "digital anxiety".
"In future we need to have some kind of blended approach between online and face to face," Mr Dougan said.
The charity is holding meetings with the education and health ministers on how young people's interests could be protected.
"I feel very strongly about the responsibility of the Executive, the voluntary sector and business leaders to work together so that young people get the support to upskill and navigate their way through this crisis."
Mr Ramsey said interventions by Chancellor Rishi Sunak such as furlough - which paid up to 80% of a workers' wages - and the less generous job support scheme were being deployed to manage rising unemployment.
"The Chancellor knows he's never going to be able to prevent every job loss but he's trying to minimise it so that severe unemployment is not happening in the midst of the pandemic."
Instead, interventions would manage the overall unemployment rate so that it could hit 8% to 10% over a longer period rather than spiking at 12% very quickly, he said. The UK rate of unemployment is now 4.5%. "With the furlough scheme, the Chancellor turned up the generosity dial full blast - and now, it's been turned the other way. It's just a matter of whether he now has to turn it up another notch.
"Over the next six months, we're going to see interventions morph and change as they are all flexible."
He predicted that youth unemployment would hit 25% within three to six months. In the last recession, it hit 24%.
The labour market statistics from the NI Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) also show there have been almost 2,000 redundancies proposed in the last three months, with 1,150 of workers notified in September alone.
There were 62,000 people claiming unemployment benefits last month, Nisra said. That is 6.7% of the workforce and the fifth month the count was over 60,000.
Sammy Wilson said the figures were a "red flag" to the parties in the Executive not to impose widespread restrictions which would force companies to close and potentially let staff go.
He said the figures "represent a real health threat to hundreds of individuals who will be pushed into poverty and depression, affecting their mental and physical health".
Joanne Stuart said the Chancellor's job support scheme, reducing wages support from 80% of wages to around 22%, would not preserve jobs in tourism. "The requirement for businesses to bring staff off furlough to work a minimum of 33% of their hours and to pay a minimum of 55% towards employee wages isn't viable and will result in large scale redundancies and business closures."