The lasting damage of this economy on young workers

posted at 3:31 pm on July 15, 2012 by Jazz Shaw

There’s a lot of talk about the difference between the published BLS unemployment rates and the actual ones, as well as some demographic subsets such as minorities and women. But another slice of the not-very-tasty unemployment pie is the long term impact that the economy is having on the youngest workers. Tiffany Hsu at the LA Times takes a look at who may really be hurting the worst and for the longest.

Had the recession never happened, there would now be an additional 2.7 million jobs for young workers, according to a report this week.

Instead, there’s a Chicago-sized hole in the employment market for people between 16 and 24 years old, according to nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group Young Invincibles.

And there’s a good chance that gap will never close, to potentially devastating effect, according to the “No End in Sight?” report.

“The scary thing is that the recession may never end for young people,” said Rory O’Sullivan, policy director for the group, in a statement.

The current unemployment rate for young folk is at 16.5% — double the national 8.2% rate. More than two in 10 Latino youth are jobless, while three in 10 black youth are unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There seem to be two primary factors at play here, one immediate and obvious, the other more long term and under the covers. For the immediate future, as long as the economy continues to stagnate, young people are not only facing a job market with fewer openings in general, but they are – more so than ever before – competing with older, more experienced workers with extensive resumes. And these older pros are frequently desperate for work and willing to take a job for less money than they ever would before, rather than holding out for higher paying senior positions.

This puts the squeeze on those just entering the work force unless they are coming out of school with some breaking new technology specialization. But even if the economy gets back to something approaching normal ten years down the road, it may be too late for today’s kids.

If they are forced to take lower skill, lower paying jobs today – just to earn something – then that’s all a future employer will see on their resume when more jobs come open. If they face a decade of no significant income with mounting bills, today’s kids may also find themselves buried under a mountain of debt and other burdens which they will never fully remove. If they reach their thirties having never landed a position in the field they trained for, they could well be stuck in “dead end” jobs for their entire career.

This economy is punishing Americans across the spectrum, but the long term damage to young workers may be worse than anything we’re seeing today. A disturbing trend indeed.


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