The Economy Continues to Add Jobs, but Young People Are Left Out

Here’s the good news: the economy is adding jobs at a rate that leaves economists optimistic. The Labor Department released the employment data for April late last week: those numbers were fairly strong, with 165,000 jobs added. Even better was the government’s revisions of the figures from February and March—in both periods, tens of thousands more jobs were created than previously thought.

Altogether, it adds up to a healthy 196,000 jobs added per month since the beginning of 2013. On the other hand, as New Yorker blogger John Cassidy points out, other macroeconomic indicators are less promising: GDP growth, for example, remains weak. More concretely, too many people are still unemployed; the “recovery” is painfully absent for millions. The New York Times reports that “the jobless rate remains far higher than it typically would be this far into a recovery.”

As we noted, there haven’t been this many Americans unemployed for six months or more since the 1940s.

Particularly worrying: our stubbornly high rates of joblessness for young people. As the Huffington Post points out: “In 2000, the United States had the lowest unemployment rate for 25- to 34-year-olds among countries with large, wealthy economies. By 2011, America had one of the highest youth unemployment rates compared to its peers.” Almost 300,000 people holding Bachelor’s degrees worked a minimum-wage job in 2012.

High youth unemployment is a disaster not just for the livelihoods of young workers, but entire economies. The Atlantic just ran a sobering piece about Japan’s experience with this phenomenon; the Japanese economy has never fully recovered from their 1990 real-estate bust, and underemployment among young people has been a problem ever since. Many young Japanese work “nonregular” positions: “Somewhat akin to temp positions in the U.S., Japan’s nonregular jobs pay half as much as regular jobs, offer few benefits, and can be eliminated on a whim.”

The evidence indicates that a poor job market for young people is “both a symptom and an agent of economic decline”:

Most obviously, financially insecure young adults do not make for mighty consumers; many members of Japan’s rising generation of workers can barely afford to rent an apartment, for instance, never mind buy a house. But job instability also impedes professional growth and wastes human potential, and in the long run, these can be more-ruinous developments. Over the past 20 years, as the share of nonregulars in the Japanese workforce has nearly doubled, Japan’s productivity has barely improved.

In the 1990s, many unemployed young Japanese were thought of as “slackers”; now it seems clear that there simply were not enough jobs. Perhaps the “Millennial” generation in America is similarly mischaracterized when they are inevitably described as “entitled”.

In a small but important step toward breaking the cycle of unemployment, New York City is outlawing unemployment discrimination in hiring. Don’t miss the rest of our posts about unemployment, and if you have any questions about employment law, contact our attorneys today.