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For American youth, Labor Day report paints an even worse jobs picture

The unemployment rate for 16-to-24-year-olds is twice that of the population overall, says a Labor Day weekend report. The portion of the group that is in the jobs market is at a historic low.

By Staff writer / September 2, 2011

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Los Angeles

Finding a job these days is hard enough if you are an adult – the new unemployment numbers out Friday just don’t seem to want to budge below that 9.1 percent mark.

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But, if you are in the 16-to-24-year-old cohort, things are just about twice as bad.

Unemployment among that group this summer stood at 18.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual Labor Day weekend report, down a percentage point from the year before. However, only 59 percent of that age group was participating in the job market, either working or searching for a job. That’s the lowest portion of the demographic since the government began tracking this youth market in 1948. The lowered participation makes the unemployment rate appear better than it is.

This sector has the worst unemployment of any group,” says economist Thomas Smith from Emory University, who notes that he has seen the impact rippling through the school’s student body.

“I have one student who decided to move his graduation to December instead of next July,” he says, just in order to get a jump on the job market for next year.

The professor says he sees other students taking more general education classes at community colleges to save money.

Tommy Bowles, who graduated from high school in June and is headed to UCLA this fall says he had high hopes for a good enough job to “get some cool clothes for college.”

Instead, after being turned down for every job application, he and a friend made up a few dozen business cards, handed them out around their San Fernando Valley neighborhood, “and we did just about anything anyone would pay us to do.”

He washed windows, carried boxes from basements, and trimmed trees. In the end, he netted around $500, “not enough to buy anything, so I had my loafers re-soled instead of buying new shoes.”

An increasing number of students are simply dropping out, says Max Wolff, who teaches in the graduate program for International Affairs at the New School University in Manhattan.

“Schools are seeing more of what they call shrinkage,” he says, meaning students who committed to attend classes but for a variety of reasons, “simply don’t show up.”


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