An analysis by the nonprofit, nonpartisan group YoungInvincibles asks what kind of employment prospects young Americans can look forward to over the next decade. Its conclusion: Bleak.
The report, " No End in Sight? The Long-Term Youth Jobs Gap and What It Means for America," says that though the present looks bad for young job-seekers, the future could be worse. Further, it questions whether employment for the young will ever return to what it was before the recession. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2010 expressed a similarly gloomy view.)
Study co-author Rory O'Sullivan says that today's unemployment numbers understate the problem.
The unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds now stands at 16.5 percent, more than double the rate for the population at large (8.2 percent). For Latino youth, the rate is 20.5 percent, and for African-American youth, 30.2 percent. Fewer than half of all young Americans hold any kind of job at all, says the report.
These numbers, while daunting, fail to take include young people who have given up looking for work and dropped out of the labor force altogether.
The report identifies what it calls a "jobs gap" of some 2.7 million, meaning that there are that many fewer jobs for youth today than would have existed without the recession.
YoungInvincibles arrives at this number, O'Sullivan explains, by using Bureau of Labor Statistics projections for the youth labor force from 2008-2018. These were based on data from 2007, the last year the economy was fully healthy. A normal unemployment rate was then applied, he says, to get the number of jobs that would have existed during this period, had the economy remained healthy. That figure was then subtracted from the number of jobs that actually exist, highlighting a gap of some 2.7 million "missing" jobs.
It's a number the report calls "staggering" - "roughly the size of the entire population of Chicago."
The situation, while grim, says O'Sullivan, isn't hopeless. If America's leaders were aggressively to pursue youth job-creation policies, he says, for example, boosting investment in AmeriCorps from the current $1 billion a year to $6.5 billion, the gap could be closed by 2016. Some 500,000 new youth jobs a year would be created, he says, for less money than the monthly cost of maintaining troops in Afghanistan.