Youth Unemployment Hits Highest Level Since World War II

According to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, youth unemployment — defined as unemployment for Americans aged 16–24 — is currently the highest its been in the post-war era:

Youth employment is at its lowest level since World War II; only about half of young people ages 16 to 24 held jobs in 2011. Among the teens in that group, only 1 in 4 is now employed, compared to 46 percent in 2000. Overall, 6.5 million people ages 16 to 24 are both out of school and out of work, statistics that suggest dire consequences for financial stability and employment prospects in that population.

More and more doors are closing for these young people. Entry-level jobs at fast-food restaurants and clothing stores that high school dropouts once could depend on to start their careers now go to older workers with better experience and credentials. It often takes a GED to get a job flipping hamburgers. Even some with college degrees are having trouble finding work. At this rate, a generation will grow up with little early work experience, missing the chance to build knowledge and the job-readiness skills that come from holding part-time and starter jobs.

Being unemployed from an early age can have lasting impacts throughout a workers life, as each missed year of work translates into “2 percent to 3 percent less earnings each year thereafter.” This effect is so severe, that college students who graduated during the 1982 recession were still earning less than students who graduated into a strong economy ten years later.


The U.S. is not alone in grappling with sky-high youth unemployment. Europe, in fact, is dealing with the prospect of a “lost generation” due to the inability of its young people to find work.