Charts: Young Adults Experienced A Lost Decade In Employment Since 2000

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EconomyYoung people entering the workforce today are less likely to be employed and earn less than the young people of two decades ago, according to a new report from Georgetown University.

Young adults have seen a “lost decade” in their employment rate, which fell from 84 percent to 72 percent between 2000 and 2012.

Citing “significant structural economic shifts” since 1980, the report also notes that the share of young adults in the labor force has dropped to the same level as it was in 1972, a decline that started in the ’80s.


And this has been particularly pronounced for African Americans. The employment gap between young white workers and black workers grew from 6 percentage points in 2000 to 14 percentage points in 2012.


It also notes that today’s young people won’t start making the median wage, which stands at about $42,000, until they reach age 30, while young people started making that much at age 26 in 1980. Earnings for 26 to 30 year olds also declined across all levels of education, although those with higher degrees were least impacted.


Young people today make up nearly half of all people who are unemployed, a fact that will likely cost those out of work $21.4 billion in earnings over the next 10 years. Missing just one year of work can translate into 2 to 3 percent less in earnings each year thereafter for a young worker. Young people who do work are increasingly pushed into low-wage jobs.

Meanwhile, young college graduates are also grappling with mounting loads of student debt, which in total now stands at more than $1 trillion. That debt means that many struggle to buy their own homes and make other large purchases, which has big negative impacts on the larger economy.