A heat wave swept the nation in June, but the labor market inched along at a glacial pace. The economy added 80,000 non-farm jobs last month, less than forecasters expected, and not enough to move the unemployment rate down from 8.2%. Young people remain far behind, though they showed some limited progress this month.
Notably, the proportion of youth with jobs out of the entire population ages 16 to 24 rose slightly to 46.1% last month from 45.9% in May. Nearly every demographic group showed gains. An expansion in youth jobs is a welcome sign given that the recession saw the lowest youth employment levels ever recorded.
On the other hand, the youth unemployment rate for 16-24 year-olds jumped to 16.5% from 16.1% in May. But this is not as bad as it sounds. To be counted as unemployed, a person must have recently searched for a job. As the number of youth jobs rose in June, more young people started looking for work. That is a good sign. However, if summer opportunities fail to keep up with demand, it risks further discouraging young willing workers.
Young people of color continue to be among the worst hit by our still struggling economy. African American women ages 16 to 24 had the worst month among various demographic groups as their unemployment rate skyrocketed a staggering 7.4 percentage points to 29.9% (not seasonally adjusted). While not as dramatic, the unemployment rates also jumped for young African American and Latino men under age 24.
Taken together, these figures paint a familiar picture: young Americans remain far behind the rest of the population and the slow economic recovery continues to hold them back. Next week, Young Invincibles will release a report looking at how long it will take the youth labor market to recover, and the consequences if we fail to get our generation back to work.