Don’t ignore America’s youth unemployment crisis

By Rory O'Sullivan
December 13, 2013

Recently, Reuters columnist Zachary Karabell proclaimed that “The Youth Unemployment Crisis Might Not Be a Crisis.” Having spent much of the past several years writing about record levels of youth unemployment and speaking with hundreds of struggling young adults across the country, I was intrigued to say the least.

In reality, the article itself does an excellent job demonstrating why youth unemployment is a crisis in America. Unemployment for 15- to 24-year-olds is nearly 16 percent, twice the national average. College graduates are doing slightly better, but young people with just a high school diploma face unemployment rates of nearly 30 percent. High schools dropouts fair even worse. Young people of color face truly shocking labor market conditions: for African American teenagers, the jobless rate is 40 percent. Economists predict this could have serious long-term consequences for the economy. One study claims that nearly 1 million unemployed young Americans will lose $22,000 each in earnings over the next ten years. Youth unemployment is an unmitigated disaster for young people and the economy as a whole.

Decades of economic data on youth joblessness shows that: 1) lack of work early in an individual’s career leads to lower future wages; and 2) entering the job market during a recession scales up individual challenges to entire generations. The data is as solid as it is disturbing.

In a report my organization, Young Invincibles, will release next month, we found that the research on wages fails to count social safety net benefits paid out to the unemployed, or that decades of research aren’t enough to draw conclusive opinions. Unfortunately, safety net programs do not help young people much; you can’t qualify for unemployment insurance if you’re looking for your first job.

Perhaps the droves of “college-educated” young people moving home with Mom and Dad are simply avoiding low-paying service jobs and holding out for something better? Unfortunately, this isn’t true either. College graduates have higher employment rates and higher labor force participation rates compared to less-educated young people. English BAs may get a bad rap, but they are not driving youth unemployment.

Few realize the extent of the problem. That lack of understanding is something I can identify with. As a college-educated man with a peer group of similarly educated people, I was shocked to learn that only 1 in 3 young people ages 25 to 34 have a 4-year degree. Eventually about four in ten Americans manage some kind of postsecondary credential, but that’s it. Most people don’t have one. Simply put, the majority of young people face staggering labor market challenges.

The problem has brewed for decades as increasing demands for skill have left less-educated young people with fewer jobs, lower wages, and worse prospects. Again, by “less-educated,” we mean “most young people.” Our education system simply hasn’t caught up with the new economy. Added to that, the worst economic nosedive since the Great Depression disproportionately impacted our generation. Put those ingredients together and you have a crisis.

PHOTO: Job seekers wait to meet with employers at a career fair in New York City, October 24, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar 

274 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Wow, this article is pleasant, my younger sister is analyzing such things, thus I am going to tell her.|

I think this is among the most important info for me. And i am glad reading your article. But should remark on few general things, The web site style is perfect, the articles is really nice : D. Good job, cheers|

Thank you for some other magnificent article. The place else may just anyone get that kind of info in such an ideal approach of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m on the search for such information.|

Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say fantastic blog!|

whoah this weblog is fantastic i really like reading your posts. Keep up the good work! You understand, a lot of persons are looking round for this information, you could aid them greatly. |

Terrific content you’ve got going here.|

You can certainly see your skills within the article you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. All the time follow your heart.|

Hi, Neat post. There’s a problem along with your web site in internet explorer, might check this? IE nonetheless is the marketplace leader and a huge section of folks will miss your great writing because of this problem.|

always i used to read smaller posts which as well clear their motive, and that is also happening with this piece of writing which I am reading here.|

My spouse and I stumbled over here different web address and thought I might check things out. I like what I see so i am just following you. Look forward to looking at your web page repeatedly.|

The very crux of your writing whilst appearing agreeable initially, did not work well with me personally after some time. Somewhere within the paragraphs you actually managed to make me a believer unfortunately only for a very short while. I nevertheless have got a problem with your jumps in logic and one would do well to fill in all those gaps. If you can accomplish that, I could definitely be fascinated.

Pretty nice post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wished to mention that I’ve truly loved browsing your weblog posts. In any case I will be subscribing in your feed and I am hoping you write once more very soon!|

I delight in, lead to I found exactly what I used to be having a look for. You’ve ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye|

Terrific article! That is the type of info that should be shared across the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post upper! Come on over and consult with my website . Thanks =)|