Young people struggling for jobs

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No matter how the rest of the economy is doing, it is always worse for young people.

Generally, the unemployment rate for people who are 16 to 24 years old runs twice the rate of the overall population. While the economy has been slowly recovering from the Great Recession, the recovery has been even slower for young workers.

In July — typically the month with the most young people working — participation in the labor force by that age group was 60.5 percent; 14.3 percent of them were unemployed, which is more than twice the national unemployment rate of 6.2 percent.

Since 2010, the percentage of young people either working or looking for work, known as the labor force participation rate, has been at the lowest rate ever since the federal government started to keep track in 1948.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report Wednesday showed that young people, who historically would be looking for jobs, are not trying to get into the labor force.

In 1989, 77.5 percent of the people in that age range, or more than three quarters, were participating. Back then, unemployment for the age group was 10.7 percent.

Participation in the labor force stayed relatively high for much of the 1990s, but started to decline at the end of the decade and continued to drop in the 2000s.

 
The youth labor force

Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute, said the decline is partially for good reasons. Enrollment in college by young high school graduates rose steadily from about 43 percent in 1989 to almost 60 percent in 2012. That fell off in 2013 to 56.4 percent.

At that same time, Ms. Shierholz said, young people were also spending more time on activities that would boost their admissions credentials, such as engaging in volunteer activities and taking extra classes.

In the report issued Wednesday, the bureau said 20.1 million young people were employed in July.

For young people who do want to work, the jobless rate is, at least, better than it was in 2010. July’s unemployment rate, at 14.3 percent, was well below the 19.1 percent level seen in July 2010.

The unemployment rate was the highest for black youths at 24.8 percent, compared with 12.2 percent for white people in the same age group.

This July, the largest share of young workers — 25 percent of those employed — was working in the leisure and hospitality industries. Another 19 percent had jobs in retail.


Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699.

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