The more than $1.1 trillion of student loan debt — the fastest-growing debt category, larger than credit card or auto loan debt — is restraining consumption, as is the retirement of baby boomers. In 2012, more than 70 percent of college graduates had student loan debts averaging about $30,000. This commencement season’s diploma recipients are entering an economy where more than 40 percent of recent college graduates are either unemployed or in jobs that do not require a college degree. This is understandable, given that 44 percent of the job growth since the recession ended has been in food services, retail clerking or other low-wage jobs.
In April, the number of people younger than 25 in the workforce declined by 484,000. Unsurprisingly, almost one in three (31 percent) people age 18 to 34 are living with their parents, including 25 percent who have jobs.
So the rate of household formation has, Neil Irwin reports in the New York Times, slowed from a yearly average of 1.35 million in 2001-06 to 569,000 in 2007-13. And investment in residential property is at the lowest level (as a share of the economy) since World War II. “If,” Irwin writes, “building activity returned merely to its postwar average proportion of the economy, growth would jump this year to a booming, 1990s-like level of 4 percent.”