As bad as the Great Recession is for everyone, it’s even worse for young workers.
Young people are unemployed and underemployed at roughly twice the national average, and it’s dramatically worse for African American and Latino males than for their white counterparts. This adds up to what Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, calls “a depression for young workers.”
In September, 18 percent of people ages 16 to 24 were unemployed—nearly twice the national average for that month—and more than 30 percent were underemployed, reports Lizzy Ratner for The Nation (Nov. 4, 2009). Break it down by ethnicity, and the numbers are even more dismal: African American teens (ages 16 to 19) have a staggering unemployment rate of 41.7 percent, compared to 23.3 percent for white teens; young Latinos, 29.5 percent. In the next age bracket, ages 20 to 24, about 27 percent of African Americans are unemployed, more than twice the rate of their white peers (13.1 percent).
“Young people are not only working less than at any time since the Great Depression but could suffer the consequences deep into their individual and collective futures,” Ratner writes. That’s because a lack of work experience now could mean lower salaries and harder-won jobs down the line. Additionally, studies suggest that even the part-time employment some young people do manage to secure doesn’t ensure future earning power.
After reading this, I thought for just a few moments and realized I could name several brilliant, talented, educated young people I know who have been looking fruitlessly for work. I’m sure if you take a moment to do the same, you’ll have similar results.
It’s one of those sad times when the abstract data intersects with daily reality in an all-too-obvious manner.