The Economic Policy Institute has released a new briefing paper entitled “The Kids Aren’t Alright: A Labor Market Analysis of Young Workers.” (Seriously though, that Kids Aren’t Alright line is getting way overused). Despite the uninspired title, there is a lot of interesting information in this analysis.

Young adults have faced the highest unemployment rate on record (since 1948) with workers 16 to 24 peaking at 19.2% last September. Especially interesting is the sub-demographic breakdown:

The difference between male and female unemployment rates for 16-24 year olds started 2010 at 7.5 percentage points; young men have a rate for 22.5% and young women 15.0%. This is the largest gap between men and women in any age group—the difference for 25-54 year olds is 1.7 points, and for workers 55 and older it is 1.4 points. The disparities between the unemployment rates of white, black, and Hispanic young workers are also stark. Black 16-24 year-old workers had the highest rate, starting 2010 at 32.5%, followed by Hispanics (24.2%), and then whites (15.2%). However, it is 16-24 year-old Hispanics workers who saw the largest increase in unemployment (13.2 percentage points), compared to their black (10.7 percentage points) or white (8.2 percentage points) counterparts.

I would like to see further study at some point as to why the sub-demographic differences are so dramatically starker with young workers than other age groups. This has serious consequences:

Because rates of unemployment for minorities have risen faster than for whites, the recession has exacerbated existing racial disparities among young adult workers.

The report reveals other significant statistics:

  • One in every four unemployed persons in America is under
    the age of 25.
  • Half of unemployed young workers have been unemployed for more than 15 weeks.
  • If all those young workers who left the labor market (and have stopped looking for work) were counted as unemployed, the unemployment rate for 16-24-year-old workers would be 23.9%.

The analysis portrays a dark image of the youth employment environment, with young workers left behind as older Americans come out of retirement to rejoin the workforce. The 10 page report is worth a read and should cause us to seriously look at unemployment from a youth lens.