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About 2.7 Million Jobs for Youth Are Missing

Wall Street Journal on June 12, 2012
By Daniel Lippman

More than two and a half million jobs for young people aged 16 to 24 are currently missing from the American economy, according to a new report that paints a depressing picture of the economic outlook for that age group.

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Bloomberg News

“The new status quo runs counter to our expectations about the American Dream — rather than opportunity, young Americans can anticipate unemployment and underemployment through much of their 20s, resulting in lower earnings for years to come,” the report said.

The report comes from Rory O’Sullivanand Alistair Johnston of the advocacy group Young Invincibles, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to expanding opportunity for young Americans. Using numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the authors calculate that 2.7 million jobs are missing for young people.

“High youth joblessness combined with lower incomes may lead to weaker economic growth. Persistent youth unemployment could not only alter what it means to be young in America, but also stifle future opportunities for succeeding generations,” the report warns.

While the national unemployment rate is 8.2%, the figure for Americans aged 16 to 24 is more than double at 16.5%. For Latino youth, the number rises to 20.5% and for African-Americans, the figure is an astounding 30.2%.

“High unemployment and lack of opportunity contribute to a trend known as ‘disconnected youth’: young people who are neither in school, not working, and often do not have a high school degree,” the report said. “Disconnected youth do not learn the work skills or build the social networks necessary for future success, and they are at risk of raising children in poverty, who will themselves suffer many negative effects.”

The report cited one recent study that says disconnected youth, estimated at 6.7 million people, “contributes to an aggregate cost to taxpayers of $1.56 trillion and a cost to society of $4.75 trillion.”

Americans with jobs are also hurt by unemployment because it reduces consumer spending in the overall economy, deprives the economy of full output and leads to lower corporate profits because of the missing demand.

The report called for urgent action to address the jobs shortfall for young people and said one way to do so would be through a major expansion of AmeriCorps, the community service program. Currently, more than 80,000 people serve in AmeriCorps, but the report said if that number of AmeriCorps positions was increased to 500,000 a year, it would fill a major gap and provide work to many young Americans, albeit at a total cost of $6.5 billion.

–Follow Daniel Lippman on Twitter @dlippman