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Parents just don’t understand: there ain’t no jobs

Submitted by Alex_Wukman on January 3, 2012 – 5:04 pmOne Comment
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By Alex Wukman

We’ve heard it for the better of four years now, the economy is in the shitter and there just aren’t enough jobs to go around. We don’t need someone to tell us that it’s hard out there and that Hustle Town doesn’t seem to give a fuck. Sure, some bright rays are poking over the horizon-it was an early Christmas gift for President Obama that the overall unemployment rate in November was below 9 percent-but that doesn’t mean things are getting easier, especially for the young. We’ve all heard about the jobless recovery and how it’s hitting families with homes and mortgages, but that’s only half the story.

The rest of the tale of the Great Recession is about the reshaping of the global economy into something that borders on a gerontocracy, or to put it bluntly: the older you are the easier it becomes to find a job. Before accusations of hyperbole start flying it’s worth taking at look at this handy breakdown of unemployment per-age-group provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statics which shows that for November 2011, the most recent figures available,  unemployment for people between the ages of 16 and 19 was 23.7 percent.  For most of the people born after the end of the Vietnam War the unemployment situation only gets marginally better. People in their early twenties (20-24 years old) face an unemployment rate of 14.2 percent. It’s only when the age increases into the early career years (25-34) that the unemployment rate drops into the single digits, 9.2 percent to be exact.

However, once age is increased to mid career years (45-54) the unemployment rate drops well below the national average to the manageable 6.7 percent. Unemployment amongst late career individuals (55-years-old or older) is at the startlingly low figure of 6.4 percent. The relationship between unemployment rates and ages is not isolated to the US, in Spain and Greece almost 50 percent of people under the age of 25 are unemployed. To put the data into another perspective we can turn to the Arab world and see remarkably similar situations. Over at the economics blog Rortybomb Mike Konczal shows that the current level of overall youth unemployment in the US (ages 16-24) is greater than the level of youth unemployment in pre-Arab Spring Syria and Morocco and that under-20 unemployment in the US almost mirrors the rate of pre-revolution Egypt.

Even the IMF noted that high youth unemployment levels were one of the contributing factors to the Arab Spring and all it takes is a visit to any Occupy encampment around the country to find that jobs and access to jobs is one of the top concerns. When Occupied Wall Street Journal founder Arun Gupta visited Austin for Salon he wrote “In every city we’ve been to, people say the lack of well-paid jobs, or any jobs at all, piqued their interest in joining the occupation.” Sadly it doesn’t seem that even Occupy protestors can reverse a trend that predates the collapse of ‘08.

Konczal finished out his blog post with an analysis of the employment-to-population ratio for people 16-24 years old and found that youth employment began a steady downward march after the early 2000s recession before going into free fall in 2008-2009. Simply put the amount of 16-24 year-olds gainfully employed decreased by 15 percent, going from 60 percent to 45, between the years 2000 and 2010 so much that, as Konczal writes, “for the first time in half a century, a majority of young people aren’t working.”

One Comment »

  • S. Herndon says:

    In every city we’ve been to, people say the lack of well-paid jobs, or any jobs at all, piqued their interest in joining the occupation.” Not everyone gets exactly what they ask for when looking for work any longer. There are jobs out there, but one must be willing to one’s hands dirty in the mean time. Our grandparents, and great-grandparents, faced an economic downturn more devastating than this, and were willing to do anything it took to survive. Family stories about doctors and lawyers, teachers and Ph.d’s, hauling potatoes to feed their families, picking oranges to get by, digging ditches to make things bearable. No one would have dreamed of sitting on their bums expecting a hand out of they could find work. I’m not saying that many Occupiers had some very valid points, but until all opportunities are exhausted, there is no reason to bemoan ones fate if you can be an active participant in your own destiny.

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