Young Adult Unemployment Rates Persist at High Levels, Education Remains Key Factor

Analyzing the enduring economic effects of youth unemployment, a new report by Demos outlines a serious job crisis, especially those with less education and individuals of color.  Surveying a full year of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2012, Stuck: Young America’s Persistent Jobs Crisis shows that 18 to 34 year-olds make up 45% of the total share of the unemployed population nationwide and continue to face a serious jobs gap—with 4.1 million new jobs needed to return to pre-recession levels of employment.STUCK Among the report’s key findings:

  • Young adults gained little ground in 2012. Altogether, there are more than 5.6 million 18 to 34-year-olds, 45 percent of all unemployed Americans, who are willing and able to take a job, but have been shut out of opportunities for employment.
  • Young adult Hispanic workers experience unemployment rates 25 percent higher than those of whites, while African Americans face rates approximately double.
  • The greatest differences were attributed to education: the unemployment rate for 18 to 24 year olds with a Bachelor’s degree was 7.7% compared to 19.7% for those with a high school diploma.
  • In 2012, the labor force participation rate of 18 to 24 year olds declined to its lowest point in more than four decades.
  • Workers with a four-year degree are 9 to 12 percentage points more likely to be in the labor market than workers with a high school diploma in every age group. The unemployment rate for workers with a high school diploma is twice as high as unemployment among workers with a Bachelor’s degreegraph

The findings update data provided in 2012 to the Connecticut Commission on Children and Connecticut Workforce Development Council, which indicated that teenage labor force participation had dropped 48.2 percent over the past 22 years across the US, and employment rates were lowest among teens of color.   The Commission and Council held a public forum on youth unemployment last year, noting that “For young people, the Great Depression isn't a history lesson - it's a current event.  While the overall unemployment rate hovered around 8 percent last summer, it stood at 17.3 percent for those between the ages of 16 and 24.”  The new Demos report suggests that progress has been negligible in the year since.

Demos is a public policy organization “working for an America where we all have an equal say in our democracy and an equal chance in our economy.”  The organization is led by former Connecticut Secretary of the State Miles Rapoport, and has offices in New York, Washington and Boston.   The new report indicates that if job growth continues at 2012 levels,  “it will be another ten years before the country recovers to full employment. Even then, workers under 25 will face unemployment rates twice the national average.”

The Demos report recommends that “Public investment to directly employ young adults—especially young adults of color and those without a college degree—could address the jobs crisis facing this generation, contribute to the recovery through increased consumer spending, and accomplish the kind of strong, stable, and diverse society that we envision for our future.”