Youth Unemployment Remains Stubbornly High Participation in the American labor force fell in August to its lowest level in 35 years. A significant part of the drop: 18- to 29-year-olds going back to school or dropping out of the workforce to raise kids.

Youth Unemployment Remains Stubbornly High

Youth Unemployment Remains Stubbornly High

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Participation in the American labor force fell in August to its lowest level in 35 years. A significant part of the drop: 18- to 29-year-olds going back to school or dropping out of the workforce to raise kids.


To U.S. jobs now. American employers added 169,000 jobs in August, and that's according to the U.S. Labor Department's most recent employment report. The overall jobless rate fell again to 7.3 percent, but one of the many groups that's having trouble getting back to work is young people who are age 16 to 24. NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Here's an economic truth that's interesting, especially given our youth-obsessed culture.

SYLVIA ALLEGRETTO: The older you get, the better things kind of get.

GLINTON: At least economically. That's Sylvia Allegretto. She's an economist with the University of California, Berkeley.

ALLEGRETTO: When you have downturns, any downturns, the youth are affected more so than older workers, but of course the Great Recession was incredible and then we lost almost 10 million jobs overnight. So everybody was greatly affected.

GLINTON: So if you look at teenagers 16 to 19 years old, their unemployment rate is close to 23 percent. If you include those under 24, it gets better, but not much. That rate is about 16 percent. Better, but not good.

NOAH TEMPLE: My name's Noah Temple. I'm from Eugene, Oregon and I'm currently living in Los Angeles in the Silver Lake neighborhood, and I'm unemployed.

GLINTON: Temple is 24 years old. He studied film in college. And to be clear, he's not completely unemployed. He's been working odd jobs and temp jobs as much as possible. He says he sort of expected things to be rough when he got out of school, partly because, well, he was studying film and because the economy was so bad when he started but...

TEMPLE: Even my friends that thought that they were getting into something very stable, like going into banking or something like that, those jobs are disappearing too.

GLINTON: Temple says he and his friends have gotten used to short-term and part-time jobs.

TEMPLE: I think the most interesting thing about millennials are what way we're hustling. We all have this innate sense that we have like dreams and goals, but we know we need to hustle to get money.

GLINTON: The labor force participation rate, which measures the number of people who are working or actively looking for work, remains low and it's been falling since before the economic collapse. It's now the lowest it's been in nearly 40 years. Heidi Shierholz is with the Economic Policy Institute. She says it's not surprising that young people are having a hard time finding jobs.

HEIDI SHIERHOLZ: They have a very high unemployment rate but it is part and parcel of what's going on in the larger economy, full stop.

GLINTON: She says in good times and bad, the unemployment rate for young people is usually twice what it is for the overall population.

SCHIERHOLZ: There's nothing strange going on with young people except for the fact that we continue to be in the longest and deepest period of economic weakness that we've seen in three generations.

GLINTON: Meanwhile, Berkeley's Sylvia Allegretto says the economy doesn't just affect the lives of young people now, but in the future as well.

ALLEGRETTO: When you're not having an economy that's generating at capacity, which we haven't for a long time now, those are services and products never to be made, those are earnings never to be made, you can never make that up. It's gone, it's gone forever.

GLINTON: Economists say young people will still be feeling the effects of this economy long after a recovery is complete. They say it will take 10 to 20 years to get over, so Noah Temple is right. His generation will have to hustle for a long time. Sonari Glinton, NPR News.

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