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The March jobs report is worse than we thought

By Jessica Adair

When it comes the economy, March was a record-breaker, but not in a good way. After twelve straight months of ridiculously powerful growth, to the tune of over 200,000 jobs added each month, the economy slowed significantly. Only 126,000 jobs were added in March, much lower than experts predicted.

Pundits, while disappointed with slower growth, seemed to breathe a sigh of relief that the unemployment rate did not increase.

Except it did — for Millennials.

After months of the unemployment rate falling among young adults, the Millennial unemployment rate actually increased. While the rate for all ages remained at 5.5 percent, the unemployment rate for workers aged 18 to 34 jumped from 7.5 to 7.8 percent.

jobs numbers - march 2015

Given today’s already tough economy for Millennials, this is disturbing news. The young adult unemployment rate has consistently been higher than the rate for adults overall, but the Great Recession was particularly bad for young workers.

In 2012, when the nation decried an unemployment rate over 8 percent, workers ages 16 to 24 years-old suffered from an unemployment rate of 16.5 percent. That did not account for young adults who went back to school, were forced to take part-time work despite looking for a full-time job or gave up looking altogether. Millions of jobs traditionally held by younger workers just vanished, another casualty of the Great Recession.

Job growth over the past few months slowly started to eat away at the youth unemployment crisis. It wasn’t all rosy news — young African-American and Latino workers routinely face higher unemployment rates than their white peers. But considering that young African-American workers faced an unemployment rate of over 30 percent in 2012, current rates signal improvement.

Unemployment rates, however, are only a small part of the overall economic picture. Wage growth increased in March by seven cents an hour, though the work week did shorten, effectively neutralizing wage gain.

Young adults are disproportionately in desperate need of wage growth. Wages have fallen by ten percent since the Great Recession for Millennials, yet by four percent for adults over the age of 35.

And the job sectors where young people are landing work today are the worst offenders when it comes to stagnating wages. Young adults aged 18 to 24 are far more likely to work in the service industry, such as leisure and hospitality or retail. In retail, for example, young adults are now making $2,000 less than workers in this industry ten years ago.

Just how, exactly, young adults are expected to afford soaring higher education costssave for retirement and make ends meet in this economy is unclear.

If this latest uptick in unemployment becomes a trend, lawmakers should do everything in their power to do what we know works when it comes to resolving unemployment. Investing more in paid apprenticeships, for example, directly targeted to unemployed young adults would help solve the immediate need for a job, while preventing future unemployment by providing job training.

In the meantime, here’s to hoping for a more prosperous April.