As Congress struggles with whether and how to craft a new job creation package, it’s worth revisiting how little information the unemployment rate (currently at 10.2 percent) actually gives us. For instance, the underemployment rate (the U-6), which incorporates people who are working part-time that want to be working full time and those who have given up searching for work, stands at 17.5 percent.
And even that falls short in certain ways, which becomes clear when the unemployment rate is broken down further:
Joblessness for 16-to-24-year-old black men has reached Great Depression proportions — 34.5 percent in October, more than three times the rate for the general U.S. population….Young black women have an unemployment rate of 26.5 percent, while the rate for all 16-to-24-year-old women is 15.4 percent.
The national unemployment rate for the entire 16-24 age bracket is 19.1 percent. According to the Pew Research Center, ten percent of adults younger than 35 have moved back in with their parents due to the recession. Only 46 percent of 16-to-24-year-olds are employed, which is the smallest share since the government began keeping track in 1948, while 56 percent of men 18 to 24 years old and 48 percent of women are “still under the same roof as their parents.”
Young workers are suffering a triple whammy: sectors in which they typically work have been the hardest hit, they are usually the first fired when budget woes hit, and more experienced workers are moving down the ladder to take what were once entry-level jobs.
But being out of work for an extended period of time when you’re young can have lasting detrimental effects in terms of income, as each missed year of work translates into “2 percent to 3 percent less earnings each year thereafter.” College students who graduated during the 1982 recession were still earning less than students who graduated into a strong economy ten years later. As the Washington Post reported, “this might be the first generation that does not keep up with its parents’ standard of living.”
With Democrats reportedly looking at a direct jobs program — using some form of public-private partnerships — the time is right for focusing at least some attention on young people. To that end, Melissa Boteach, Joy Moses, and Shirley Sagawa advocate using national service programs to tackle both youth unemployment and the growing number of those “seeking assistance from the nation’s non-profits and relevant government agencies”:
National service programs create full-time positions that are — in most cases — jointly paid for by public and private resources. These entry-level public service positions pay a poverty-level living allowance or slightly more, and they come with health-care benefits, sometimes child-care benefits, and the opportunity for Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards, which help recipients pay for higher education, educational training, or student loans. National service programs are not designed as long-term career positions, but these national service jobs have historically helped boost job creation by providing opportunities for difficult-to-employ youth and recent college graduates, while also building nonprofit organizations’ capacity to continue this important social service.
A youth conservation corps, modeled off of the Civilian Conservation Corps, may not be a bad idea either.