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Youth Unemployment by the Numbers, From NYC to U.S.

Wall Street Journal on June 12, 2012
By Jackie Bischof

A new report released this week reinforces the view that young Americans are facing a tougher time than ever before trying to stake a claim in the job market.

WSJ’s Real Time Economics discussed the findings of the report, which was published by advocacy group Young Invincible. It states that more than two and a half million jobs for young people ages 16 to 24 are currently missing from the American economy.

Job hunting has become a more competitive exercise, as teens and young adults face off against more experienced, educated adults who have become unemployed as a result of the recession. Federal funding cuts to jobs programs have also contributed to a dip in youth employment numbers.

In New York City, as the Journal reported Wednesday, 16- to 19-year-olds have experienced an unemployment rate of above 30% for three years in a row, three times the city’s unemployment rate. One in five New Yorkers between 18 and 24 are out of school and out of work.

report issued earlier this year by New York City’s Workforce Investment Board described the consequences of young adults struggling to find jobs. “Research has indicated that work is ‘path-dependent’: those who work at age 17 are more likely to work at 19, and more likely to work into their early 20s and beyond,” according to the report.

“Even for many young people who are working, however, the glut of older workers with whom they are competing might mean that they are taking jobs below their skill levels, as in the case of a college graduate working as a retail clerk,” the report says. “Researchers have found that this outcome tends to depress a worker’s wages for years to follow.”

High youth unemployment has “serious repercussions for our overall economy,” says Commissioner of the City’s Department of Youth and Community development in aninterview with the Journal. “We really thrive on an infusion of energetic and entrepreneurial young people, and I can’t imagine what happens after a generation of young people are … left on the sidelines.”

The Commissioner’s views are in line with the Young Invincibles report.  “High youth joblessness combined with lower incomes may lead to weaker economic growth,” according to the report. “Persistent youth unemployment could not only alter what it means to be young in America, but also stifle future opportunities for succeeding generations.”