There is a special concern about young people, who are going to struggle to make the transition from school to work. We know that a long spell of unemployment when you are young creates a permanent scar—reducing earnings for decades and increasing the risk of adverse life events. Even for those with college education, the graduating class of 2020 from universities is going to have a tough time. But minority youngsters with less education are going to be especially hard-hit. For many, in the past, one response to a bad labor market is to go back to school—but that doesn’t look that attractive right now.
This graph charts how bad the situation is. It plots the monthly unemployment rate for those aged sixteen to twenty-four from when records were first kept, in 1948. In April, the rate for this cohort rose to 27.4 percent, and it is hard to see it doing anything other than rising further for the foreseeable future. The class of 2020 does not even show up in the data yet.
It is hard to describe what we are seeing in these data as anything other than an unfolding disaster. The young are my greatest worry.