Young Adults Make Up Nearly Half Of America’s Unemployed Workforce

The 5.6 million young adults who are willing and able to work but cannot find a job make up 45 percent of America’s unemployed workforce, while another 4.7 million are stuck in part-time jobs when they are seeking full-time employment, according to a new report from Demos. In total, the U.S. needs to add 4.1 million jobs for young workers — ages 18 to 34 — to return to pre-recession levels of employment.

While unemployment for ages 18-to-34 is high, it is especially high for workers on the bottom half of that range, as this chart from the Demos report shows:

Unemployment is also worse for minority youths — particularly blacks and Latinos — and for young people without a college education. While the unemployment rate is low for young workers with a college degree — 7.7 percent for ages 18-to-24 and 5.1 percent for ages 25-to-34 — it is 10 percent for workers with only a high school diploma and 16.5 percent for workers with less education than that.

Worse, young workers are increasingly employed in low-wage sectors. More than 40 percent of workers between ages 18 and 24 work in either retail or food services, both of which are among the lowest-paying sectors in the American economy. College graduates, as recent Labor Department data showed, are increasingly working in low-wage jobs, largely because they have made up a majority of jobs added since the recession ended. One of every four Americans is projected to be working in a low-wage job in a decade.

For young workers, however, the effects can be worse both for them and the overall economy. Not only do low wages and unemployment hold young workers back economically for the rest of their lives, it also has hurt the housing market and the economic recovery. Still, lawmakers in Washington remain committed to focusing on deficit reduction the country doesn’t need instead of the jobs crisis that is hurting workers and putting a chill on both short- and long-term economic growth.